(O'Neal goes up against the Clippers on his birthday. Photo courtesy of AP)
3/06/2000 - Shaq scores 61 on birthday
On March 6, 2000, Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal turned 28 years old. That night, the Lakers played "on the road" against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center -- which was the same arena the Lakers played their home games at. For his birthday, O'Neal had asked the Clippers to give him free seats for his family and friends; the Clippers denied, and Shaq was forced to spend the money himself.
Feeling spurned, O'Neal laid waste to the atrocious Clippers, who had lost 25 of 27 games and had just recently fired Chris Ford, their head coach. In 45 minutes, O'Neal went 24-35 from the field, made 13 of 22 foul shots, scored 61 points and pulled down 23 rebounds, as the Lakers (who would finish 67-15) destroyed the Clippers who adversely finished 15-67), 123-103. It was the most points anyone had ever scored on their birthday, and was the first 60-20 performance the league had seen since 1969, when Wilt Chamberlain accomplished it.
"We tried to do everything conceivable to stop him and slow him down," said Clippers interim coach Jim Todd. "He just had it going and it was tough going against Goliath. He obviously wanted to make a point. ... I hoped he would stop at 50."
Afterward, O'Neal -- who would win his only MVP that season -- gave a warning to the other NBA teams: "Don't ever make me pay for tickets."