When 7’6″ Yao Ming entered the league in 2002, he joined the list of seven footers every dunker in the league wanted to put on a poster. And nobody was better at putting centers on posters than Shaquille O’Neal. In the first hyped-up meeting between the two centers on TNT, Shaq outscored Yao 31 to 10, and of course, put Yao on a couple of nasty looking posters. But, the Rockets got the W at the Compaq Center.
A month later, the Rockets traveled to Staples to take on a Shaq-less Lakers and the red-hot Kobe — he was on a five-game streak of 40+ points — got his revenge. Bryant, on a sore knee, connected on 19-of-38 shots and scored a season-high 52 points as the Lakers pulled off a 106-99 double OT victory.
After the game, Kobe said his knee was “killing him. The Rockets shooting guard, Cat Mobley, didn’t sound so convinced.
“He must not have been hurting that bad,” Mobley said. “I don’t know. Some people just have the will to win and he had it.”
Yao, facing a front line of Samaki Walker and Mark Madsen, had an impressive 24 and 14 before fouling out in OT.
As for Bryant’s sore knee. He scored 40 in his next game, 40 in the game after and 41 after that, giving him a streak of nine games with 40+ points. Sounds amazing until you remember he once had a streak of five games with 50+.