7:30 PM ET, January 16, 2006
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
O'Neal followed Russell's advice.
Bryant said O'Neal first approached him while he was stretching before the game and congratulated him on the birth of his daughter and the impending birth of a second child.
"It made me feel good," Bryant said, adding he was surprised at O'Neal's gesture. "We've been through so many wars together. Now, just be able to move on, try to do the best for this team, wish him the best in South Beach.
"I think it's good for the city of Los Angeles, good for the NBA, good for the youth, being Martin Luther King Day."
After the initial contact, the longtime protagonists shook hands, embraced briefly and exchanged a few words at center court when the team captains and game officials met before the game. They exchanged another hug before the opening tipoff as the fans at the Staples Center voiced their approval.
"I had orders from the great Bill Russell," O'Neal said. "Me and him were talking in Seattle the other day, and he was telling me how rivalries should be. I asked him if he ever disliked anybody he played against, and he told me, 'No, never,' and he told that I should shake Kobe Bryant's hand and let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet.
"Today is a day of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King was an ambassador of peace. So when I talked to Mr. Russell, he told me he said that him and Chamberlain spoke once or twice a week before he passed away. And even though people thought they hated each other, there was nothing but love there."
Lamar Odom had 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers (21-17), who won for the sixth time in seven games. Devean George added 17 points and Chris Mihm had 10 points and six rebounds before fouling out.
Dwyane Wade had 34 points and seven assists for Miami (23-16), which had its four-game winning streak snapped. O'Neal had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Udonis Haslem had 13 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out, and James Posey scored 11 points for the Heat.
The game was the fourth between the teams since the Lakers traded O'Neal to Miami in July 2004. The Heat won the previous three, including a 97-92 triumph on Christmas Day in Miami. O'Neal and Bryant didn't acknowledge each other before or during that game.
The two spent eight tumultuous seasons with the Lakers, teaming with current Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson to win three championships. Jackson left the team a month before O'Neal did and took last season off before being rehired in June.
The game also marked the return of Pat Riley to Los Angeles for the first time since he returned as coach of the Heat last month. Riley coached the Lakers to four championships in the 1980s.
Bryant made two free throws with 4:10 remaining to extend the Lakers' lead to 90-81. But O'Neal scored the game's next five points to draw the Heat within four points with 2:36 to play.
Miami cut it to three points on a basket by Wade with 1:56 left, but that was as close as the Heat would get. Bryant and Wade exchanged baskets before George made two free throws with 49.6 seconds remaining.
Odom's baseline jumper with 19.2 seconds to play as the shot clock was running down and two free throws by George completed the scoring.
"This is definitely a win we can build off of," said Odom, who came to the Lakers in the O'Neal trade. "That is a quality team. We just have to keep it up and put games away."
O'Neal picked up his fourth foul with 7½ minutes left in the third period, going to the bench with the Lakers leading 69-53.
Then, led by Wade and Haslem, the Heat went on a 22-10 run to finish the third quarter and start the fourth, cutting the Lakers' lead to four at 79-75.
Bryant returned to the game at that stage, and made two jumpers and two free throws after being fouled by O'Neal to put the Lakers ahead 85-77 with 6:48 to play.
The Lakers led 57-42 at halftime and by as many as 19 points early in the third quarter.
The game completed a season-long seven-game road trip for the Heat that began with a 15-point loss to New Orleans at Oklahoma City. "The beginning was a disaster, an absolute disaster," Riley said. After another one-sided loss at Phoenix, the Heat turned it around, beating Portland, Golden State, Seattle and Utah by an average of 16½ points. ... There were no apparent problems between Odom and Miami's Gary Payton, who had to be separated following last month's game in Miami after exchanging angry words. ... Lakers F Brian Cook picked up two technical fouls in the third quarter, calling for automatic ejection. He left with four points and four personal fouls in 10 minutes. ... Riley also received a technical in the third period. ... O'Neal and 18-year-old Lakers rookie Andrew Bynum dunked on each other late in the first half before exchanging elbows, resulting in a double-technical. Bryant quickly got between the two.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||34-83 (.410)||34-73 (.466)|
|3PM-3PA||5-18 (.278)||5-15 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||19-30 (.633)||27-31 (.871)|
|Fast Break Points||7||6|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||24 (2/0)||28 (3/0)|