Today in Sports History: June 12th

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(Phil Jackson, Shaq, and Kobe. Photo by Jeff Haynes, Getty Images)

6/12/2002 - Lakers sweep Nets; establish dynasty

The Los Angeles Lakers sweep the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals, giving them their third straight NBA title. After the Lakers' thrilling seven-game series with the Sacramento Kings, their matchup with the Nets was underwhelming to say the least. New Jersey had become a great team with the addition Jason Kidd, but with no real go-to scorer, they were simply outmatched by the vaunted Lakers. Mitch Richmond, who had spent the majority of his career with the Sacremento Kings, finally got his championship ring after 14 years in the league.

This was the final accomplishment of the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, who dissolved away just two years later. Shaquille O'Neal won his third straight finals MVP award, joining Michael Jordan as the only men to accomplish that feat. With the title, Phil Jackson tied Red Auerbach's nine championships for the most all time.

Lakers-Nets Game 4 also marked the end of an era for NBC, who had televised NBA games since 1990. Under the NBA on NBC, the league had soared to unprecedented highs in both ratings and popularity. It didn't hurt that NBC's NBA license coincided with the rise of the Michael Jordan-led Bulls, who won six championships during that time. The year following the 2002 fina;s, the NBA switched its national broadcasting rights over to ABC.

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(Roethlisberger's banged-up motorbike. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

6/12/2006 - Roethlisberger crashes motorcycle

Ben Roethlisberger was off to one of the best starts of any quarterback in history. In only two seasons, the Steelers' QB had won 22 of his first 25 regular season games, made the Pro Bowl twice, and led the Steelers to their first Super Bowl title in 26 years. Yet as quickly as he was establishing himself as a marquee performer in the NFL, Roethlisberger nearly lost it all in a motorcycle accident.

Big Ben crashed his Suzuki Hayabusa into a vehicle that reports indicated had not properly yielded to him. Roethlisberger, who on impact had been thrown onto the pavement, was taken to a local hospital, where a few devoted Steelers fans waited outside in the hope of catching some positive news. A few fans even brought grills, turning a make-shift vigil into a hospital tailgate party.

There were instantly fears that Roethlisberger's career was over. Big Ben's bike riding had already been brought up as a cause for concern. Only three years earlier, Jay Williams of the Chicago Bulls ended his career with a motorcycle crash, and Kellen Winslow Jr. of the Cleveland Browns had a serious motorcycle accident in 2005. Roethlisberger had been criticized by coach Bill Cowher, who wished that he would wear a helmet when he went riding. Roethlisberger was not wearing a helmet when he crashed.

Ben luckily walked away with only a fractured jaw, a concussion, and a few broken teeth. He was able to leave the hospital less than four days later, though not on his motorcycle, which had been completely totaled. Roethlisberger had a terrible 2006 season; the accident, coupled with an appendectomy that kept him out of the first game of the year, hampered his ability to play. The Steelers finished a meager 8-8 and missed the postseason. Two years later the won the Super Bowl again.

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(House celebrates an Allen layup with 16.4 seconds left. Photo by Barry Chin, Boston Globe)

6/12/2008 - Celtics overcome Lakers in Game 4

In Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics make up a 21-point first quarter deficit, a 24-point second quarter deficit, an 18-point halftime deficit, and a 20-point deficit with six minutes left in the third quarter to win the game, 97-91, and take a 3-1 series lead. Celtics backup point guard Eddie House come on midway through the third quarter, with Rajon Rondo -- the starting point guard -- limping from a sore ankle. Boston then went on a 21-3 run to get themselves back in the game. House and James Posey provided the spark off the bench, scoring 29 points between the two of them.

When it was all said and done, the Celtics had pulled off one of the largest postseason comebacks in history, and were now only a game away from title No. 17.

"I don't want to get overjoyed," said Paul Pierce, who led all scorers with 20 points. "I want to go out there to try and win Game 5 on Father's Day and then I'll be able to breathe. Right now, I'm waiting to exhale."

Kobe Bryant scored just 17 points on 6-19 shooting; he and the rest of the Lakers were criticized for failing to protect an otherwise insurmountable 35-14 first quarter lead. "They were determined not to let me beat them tonight," said Kobe, who had scored 36 points in Game 3. "I saw three, four bodies every time I touched the ball."

Los Angeles retaliated with a tight, five-point win over the Celtics in Game 5. In Game 6, however, the Celtics returned to their home court and kicked the living daylights out of Los Angeles to win their first championship in two decades. The final score: Boston 131, Los Angeles 92.

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