Lakers

The Ten Loudest Games in Staples Center History

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Formerly known worldwide as the Staples Center, Crypto.com Arena has been the home of the Los Angeles Lakers (and that other red, blue and white team) for more than 20 years.

Since moving to downtown LA from Inglewood, the Lakers won six of their 17 NBA Championships, and as customary in Laker lore, this stadium has produced so many memorable moments that fans still talk about this very day. 

But what makes something memorable is the immediate reaction of the fans that witnessed it. The screaming, the roaring of fans in either shock, amazement — or heck, why not both — in what they have just seen before their very eyes. For the sake of clarity, this is about the loudest games, not the loudest moments.

So no, you won’t see games that were defined by one play like Robert Horry’s game-winner in 2002 against the Kings, or Andre Ingram’s NBA debut. This list only talks about the games where you know fans were screaming from the top of their lungs from tip-off to the final buzzer.

Here are the top-10 loudest games in Staples Center history.

No. 10: vs. Denver, 2018

The 2017-18 season wasn’t a franchise-altering one like most seasons in the Purple and Gold, but it is one to look back on fondly. It was a transitional year— this was a team with a rookie GM in Rob Pelinka, and a very young squad named the “Baby Lakers“, consisting of a core of rookies in Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson until the latter got traded for Isaiah Thomas. Most of the hype that season came from Lonzo, because of his questionable Jason Kidd comparisons, weird jump shot, and very vocal father.

But this was still the Lakers — a team about championships — and this season would be the fifth year where they hadn’t made the playoffs. So around these times, people are looking to put drama on anything. This story was one of them.

Before they met with the Lakers at the Conference Finals later in the 2020 Bubble, the young Denver Nuggets were already trying to stir up beef. It all began in December 2017, when the Nuggets soundly beat the Lakers on their home court. Instead of dribbling the clock out like most games, second-year point guard Jamal Murray dribbled the ball around Lonzo instead.

Let’s just say the opposing team didn’t appreciate that little gesture. You’d think he’d stop there, but once they went back to Denver in March 2018 and beat them again, Murray made sure to make a scene again, this time involving head coach Luke Walton

So when the time came for the Lakers to meet these guys in Staples just a few days later, it was on. 

The crowd was into this regular-season game like it was the playoffs, booing Jamal Murray every time he got the ball, and late-game chants of “Murray sucks!” echoed in the arena. This was a critical game for the Lakers because they were 30-36 at the time, and could have possibly made a run for the No. 8 seed.

There were plenty of memorable moments in this one, from Lonzo’s chase-down block on Gary Harris, to IT crossing up Nikola Jokic, to Kuzma exploding in the second half. My favorite moment was late in the 4th, where Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stole the ball from Murray, then dimed it to Randle for a thunderous dunk, followed by a little smack talk to Murray afterward.

A satisfying rival game that ends in a feel-good moment for these fans in this adventurous year.

No. 9: vs. Charlotte, 2021

Here we have another game this time involving Lonzo’s younger brother LaMelo Ball. Yes, I know Staples changed their name to Crypto this season, but that happened on Christmas Day. This was before that.

The Lakers were 5-5 during this time, struggling to make sense out of Russell Westbrook and needing to deal with injuries already to

. The lone bright spot here, however, was newly signed Carmelo Anthony, who immediately became a fan favorite for Laker fans because he always seems to get hot playing home games.

And still, the season was fresh, and that means one thing— rabid fans. 

The crowd was into this game early thanks to some highlight plays in the first quarter, but the show really began in the second half. Dunks from Anthony Davis, half-court buzzer-beaters, dazzling finishes, and of course, Carmelo lighting it up from three.

The Lakers would go on to make this an entertaining game as well — there’s A LOT of that this year — by making the game go to overtime, and they managed to win it— praise sweet baby Jesus. 

If only every game could be like this last year. 

No. 8: vs. San Antonio, 2018

As you’ve already noticed so far, every game is all about context. People love a good story. And after the aforementioned 2017-18 season, the Lakers would have themselves a thousand more stories to tell when they signed LeBron later that summer.

But even that came with bumps and bruises along the way. The Lakers were 0-2 to start the season under the LeBron era, and the restless fans badly needed a win. Problem was they were up against the veteran San Antonio Spurs, led by the greatest coach in NBA history in Gregg Popovich. 

The game went down to the wire, and it was a high-scoring affair complete with all the highlights you can think of (shoutout to Lance Stephenson by the way— dude was funny to watch in this one).

The Lakers would be down eight with a minute remaining, and most were ready to check loss No. 3 off. But after a dunk by JaVale McGee and a quick three by Kuzma, there was still time. 

And then it happened: LeBron’s first Laker moment. With eight seconds left, Lakers down by three, only one guy should be having the ball right now.

LeBron walks to the middle of the court, stops a few feet behind the three-point line and chucks it up— BANG.

The crowd exploded for the first time in a long time. 

Again, the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in ages, and they placed all their faith in LeBron to end that drought. This was just the first of many more to come. The Lakers would force overtime, and even that period had its own moments of hype. My favorite was Josh Hart saving the ball from going out of bounds, outlet passing to Lonzo, who dumped it to LeBron for a fast-break and-1, again complete with the crowd going crazy.

Unfortunately, the Lakers would lose this game. LeBron missed two free throws, Patty Mills hit a clutch bucket, and The King tried to answer but failed. The team was now 0-3, but my god was this game a treat. 

No. 7: vs. Miami, 2004 (Shaq’s first return to LA)

After the NBA was dominated by the Chicago Bulls in the 90s, it was the Lakers that would return to supremacy in the 2000s— the heyday of Staples Center. This time, they were led by the most dominant duo in NBA history in unstoppable center Shaquille O’Neal and the player often cited to be the next Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant. After first coming together in 1996, the two would win a three-peat of championships from 2000 to 2002.

Everyone knows this, of course.

But the relationship between the two was rocky, and the media wasn’t shy about letting the world know about it too. Long story short, after a loss to the Spurs in ‘03 and then to the Pistons in what was an equally controversial ‘04 season, Shaq would leave the Lakers for the Miami Heat in the summer of that year. Before KD to the Warriors in 2016 and LeBron (also) to Miami in 2010, it was Shaq to the Heat in 2004. 

So when the time came for the Big Diesel to return to Staples Center on Christmas Day, this time on the away team, it was tense to say the least.

It was a mixed bag, really. A lot of the fans ended up cheering for Shaq as gratitude for the three rings, but others booed the big man. Whenever the two former teammates would collide, the crowd would gasp in shock.

It was a very anticipated game.

This was also a very close matchup, not as flashy as the other games on this list, but a tit-for-tat fight that brought the crowd to the edge of their seats. 

In the end, it was Shaq’s Heat that would come out on top. 

No. 6: vs. Boston, 2008 (Christmas Day)

 

In 2008, the Lakers made a deep run for the first time in years thanks to their acquisition of Pau Gasol. They would reach the Finals and face their historic rival, the Boston Celtics. The C’s came out on top in convincing fashion, however, beating the Lakers in Game 6, at their home court, by THIRTY-NINE POINTS.

Good grief. It was easily the worst Finals game of Kobe’s career.

Everyone knows what they want. A rematch. Forget the other teams, forget young LeBron who was tearing it up in Cleveland, we want Lakers-Celtics again. Both these teams were first in their respective conferences, and the Celtics were sporting a 19-game winning streak coming into this game. And when the two would finally meet on Christmas Day, it was about to go DOWN. 

The atmosphere in this game was like the NBA Finals. Not a single play received lukewarm reactions— everything was either cheers for the Lakers or boos for the Celtics. Early in the second, there was this hectic play where everyone was fighting for the loose ball. Kobe taps the ball to the other side of the court, Trevor Ariza chases and throws it back before it goes out of bounds, Sasha Vujacic catches it, lays it in. Count it, and 1.

A standing ovation. Glorious.

The game was down to the wire late in the fourth, but the Lakers pulled away, capped off with a satisfying reverse dunk by Ariza. The crowd ends the holidays on a happy note with the Lakers getting revenge for their Finals loss, but they knew this wasn’t the last they’d see from the Celtics this year. 

No. 5: vs. Phoenix, 2006 (Round 1, Game 4)

When the announcement was made for Staples Center to be renamed Crypto.com Arena, Kobe’s wife Vanessa said that Staples Center will forever be named “the house that Kobe Bryant built”.

And for good reason, really. Honestly, this whole list could have been all about Kobe’s memorable games, because he really held the fort for this arena throughout his entire career. 

One of them, here at number six, was Kobe at his physical peak. Averaging a scorching 35.4 points per game, Kobe literally carried this team to the seventh seed in the NBA Playoffs, where he faced the Phoenix Suns led by League MVP Steve Nash. Kobe got robbed, by the way.

But in a stunning turn of events, the Lakers would go up 2-1 in this series, and now have the chance to win Game 4 on their home court and be up 3-1. A seventh-seed team going up 3-1 against a No. 2 seed. Has that ever happened before?

Anyway, Kobe was firing on all cylinders early this game, but got three fouls early in the second quarter alone! He wasn’t having it, and the crowd definitely wasn’t having it. For the majority of this season, No. 8 was carrying this team on its back, but the entire team stepped up this game. Vujacic, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom and even Kwame Brown. Timely buckets are just enough to keep them afloat. Magic Johnson was at the sidelines, and he was loving every bit of this one. 

The game went down to the wire, and with 7.9 seconds to go in the fourth, the Lakers were trailing 90-88. Suns inbound the ball to Nash but is stolen by Smush Parker, who passes it to Kobe for the game-tying bucket. Overtime. 

Both teams are tired by this point, but buckets are exchanged. Nash hits a three, Kobe responds with a bucket and Odom with the and-one. And 6.1 seconds to go, a jump ball was called. Lakers down by one.

Walton wins the tip, Bryant with the save. You finish the rest.

No. 4: vs. Portland, 2000 (WCF, Game 7)

Forget the loudest games in Staples Center history, this one’s in the top 10 of the loudest games in NBA history. 

Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals saw the beginning of a dynasty. Kobe Bryant was only 21 and Shaq was 27. After finishing the season 65-17 with Shaq as MVP, all that was left was for them to hoist the trophy.

But they were up against a veteran Portland Trail Blazers team that featured European legend Arvydas Sabonis, Rasheed Wallace and an aging Scottie Pippen. They were so tough and rigid that they held the Lakers to 58 points late in the 4th. 

They could only hold them out for so long, and the Lakers would storm back to mount a comeback. As the lead diminished further and further, the crowd grew louder and louder. Eventually, with a minute remaining, they take the lead at 79-81. Sheed misses a pair of free throws, and then on the other end, Kobe pulls up from the key, and the crowd erupts.

Pippen tries to answer, misses, and with a minute remaining, Lakers up by 5, they knew it was time to meet the Pacers. But before that, Kobe walks to center court, crosses up Pippen and lobs the ball to Shaq, who dunks it empathically.

Again, one of the loudest crowds in NBA history. Unbelievable.

No. 3: vs. Toronto, 2006 (Kobe’s 81-Point Game)

Oh, man, you just KNEW this was coming. Does this really need any backstory? 

These are one of those games where you just HAD to be there to witness how awesome this was. On January 22, 2006, in the middle of one of the most dominant single-seasons by an NBA player in history, Kobe drops 81 points on the Toronto Raptors.

Once Kobe heated up in the second half and began piling bucket after bucket, the crowd just got louder and louder. And mind you, the Lakers were actually losing around this half, so them mounting this comeback made this all the meaningful and rewarding.

By the fourth quarter, nobody cared about the game anymore, they all just begged Kobe to get the ball and continue smashing every record in his way. Once he sank two free throws to give him 81, Phil sent him to the bench to a roaring standing ovation by the sold-out Staples Center. 

As Laker fans, we’re spoiled as hell. Sure, heroic moments in the playoffs are ones to cheer for, but games like these are something that only happen once every blue moon. And when it does happen, it’s nothing short of magical. 

This isn’t the most memorable game from the Black Mamba. That would have to be…

No. 2: vs. Utah, 2016 (Kobe’s Final Game)

When Kobe Bryant announced in November of 2015 that this season would be his last, the entire NBA world was shocked knowing one of the greatest to ever play the game was going to hang it up. Injuries took too much of a toll on his body, from a torn Achilles in 2013, followed by a fractured knee the next year, and a torn rotator cuff after that. All at the wrong side of 30. 

So when the time would come for him to play his very last game at home, there wasn’t much expectation for him to play anything out of the ordinary. He missed the previous games due to injuries, and was averaging 17 points per game on an ugly 35% field-goal percentage.

Heck, I wasn’t optimistic. 

But then you see the Laker faithful gathering around Staples Center HOURS before this game. It was an atmosphere that can be likened to them playing in the Finals. And you see all the fanfare that was played even before tip-off. Kobe just KNEW he couldn’t let everyone down. 

Struggling at the beginning, Kobe eventually made his first basket shortly after getting a block, to the roar of the crowd. From that point on, EVERYTHING involving Kobe stirred a reaction akin to that LeBron poster dunk in 2020 against the Kings. We saw the 36-year-old grandpa look ten years younger with a slew of pull-up threes, crafty layups and rare bursts of speed. 

And hey, this team had its own moments, even if they didn’t involve Kobe. There was D’Angelo Russell dropping a between-the-legs pass to Julius Randle, there was Jordan Clarkson’s 360, or my favorite was Tarik Black getting an emphatic block on one end, followed by Marcelo Huertas throwing an alley-oop to Larry Nance Jr. Such an awesome string of moments, and a refreshing sight in an ugly season.

Still, the Lakers were down double-digits late in the fourth. Yeah, this is the 15-67 Lakers we’re talking about. A crowd would be satisfied enough by this point; Kobe dropped 37 points around this time, well above his average and easily his season high. But he wasn’t having it. 

Kobe dominated where he always dominates: in the clutch. An inside floater to give him 50, then a jumpshot from 14-feet to give him 53. And then an insane step-back three to give him 56! Watching that entire sequence was unbelievable.

After yet another Jazz miss, there’s only one guy with the ball. Kobe’s last shot of his illustrious career is a pull-up jumper that hits nothing but net, giving him 58, and giving the Lakers the lead. Two free throws later, 60. He leaves the court to an emotional standing ovation, and a heartfelt speech shortly after the game.

Mamba out. 

No. 1: vs. Boston, 2010 (NBA Finals, Game 7)

As legendary as that game was, however, it pales in comparison to the latest showdown of a rivalry that was 50 years in the making. Laker fans aren’t dumb — they know the history behind Purple and Gold vs. Green and White — and they didn’t have to look back so far; their butts were whooped by Beantown just two years ago. It all came down to a decisive Game 7 in Staples Center 12 years ago.

The entire arena watched as the two teams fought, and not a single moment was ignored or taken for granted. This was also a very low-scoring affair— defense was the name of the game in this one, and it made every single shot all the more valuable and all the more well-receiving of a roaring crowd. 

It went all the way down to the wire. Kobe with the clutch jumper. Pau Gasol with the extremely tough bucket. The legendary pass to Ron Artest that got a signature “BANG!” from Mike Breen. There’s just so many memorable moments to choose from, and the crowd going crazy is just the icing on the cake. 

This is, without a doubt, the loudest game in Staples Center history.

About Mark Tuason

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