The Pistons; victory in the 2004 NBA Finals is considered one of the greatest upsets in postseason history.
With no true Hall-of-Famer on the roster, the '04 Pistons were a team comprised of veteran players hungry to win. While the acquisition of Rasheed Wallace made them a pretty significant threat in the East, nobody expected them to be hoisting the Larry O'Brien in June -- especially considering their opponent.
Just two seasons removed from their three-peat, the 2004 Lakers were run by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bean Bryant, who were two of the best players on the planet. The combination of their powers made them pretty difficult to stop yet, somehow, an underdog Pistons team was able to pull it off.
Of course, that begs the question: how? In a Bleacher Report AMA, he revealed how his team was able to come away with the victory.
@nothing_: How’d you guys shut down Kobe and Shaq in the Finals?
Our motto all season was 'Man up.' What 'man up' means is, you gotta guard your man, don't expect a double team. Especially playing against Shaq and Kobe, the reason they were that great is because you're running another guy at Shaq or Kobe...but then Rick Fox or Derek Fisher will kill you. With us, we guarded everybody head on, that was our motto all season long...our team was made up of grown men who said we're coming to work and we're gonna do our job. If Shaq gets his 30 or Kobe gets his 30 but nobody else scores, then we'll be fine.
Hamilton made the idea of stopping Shaq and Kobe sound almost easy with those words. While "easy" isn't quite what describes it, their strategy worked.
In Game 1, when Shaq and Kobe combined for 59 points, the rest of the team only dropped 16 with the third highest-leading scorer being Devean George at 5. In Game 3, Kobe and Shaq combined for 25. No other player on the team scored double digits.
In Game 4, Kobe and Shaq led the way with 20 and 36 points, respectively while the rest of the team combined for just 24. Game 5, the final of the series, Kobe and Shaq each scored over 20 while everyone else failed to surpass 10.
While the ongoing feud between Kobe and Shaq played an enormous role in the Lakers' performance, there seems to be some credence to the notion that Detroit's defensive strategies played a major role as well.
Richard Hamilton, and the rest of that '04 team for that matter, deserve a lot of credit for that performance.