For as much success the Lakers have seen over their long and storied existence, they’ve also seen plenty of failures.
“The big reason was Karl Malone got hurt. We were [18-3] and everybody was talking about we were going to get the Bulls’ record and stuff like that. But then people don’t get it. We had a kid, Kobe Bryant, he was a kid. He had just gotten in trouble. He had a mindset of, ‘I think I’m going to jail. I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ He was going back and forth to Denver, we didn’t have him a lot. Then, all of a sudden, Shaq and the organization were having problems.”
For those that remember, the Lakers won a whopping 56 games that year, before being absolutely destroyed by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals… in just five games.
“Karl Malone missed  games, Shaquille O’Neal missed , and then we had Kobe who missed .” Payton continued. “I’m the only guy there who plays the whole 82, and we’ve got a group of guys coming off the bench who didn’t know who they were. We had Fisher, we had Fox, we had Horace Grant, and we put it together. So when we put it together and got to the playoffs, we made a run. San Antonio was the [No. 3] team in the league that year; we beat them in [six] games. And then we got to the Finals and everything didn’t click after that. Karl tried to come back, blew up the knee, and then Kobe and everybody went on to their own thing. We let a good team in Detroit, who was rolling at the time, beat us 4-1.”
As it would turn out, that run would be the Lakers’ last. Shaq was traded to Miami that summer and Payton was evidently traded before the end of the next season.
Dynasties never last, as we’ve seen throughout the course of NBA History. While they had their run, the Shaq & Kobe Laker era came to an abrupt end. Still, had they won those Finals, things might’ve played out very differently for the rest of the league.