The 2003-2004 season marked the end of one of the greatest duos in professional basketball history. It would mark the final season that Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant would play together with the Los Angeles Lakers. After falling to the Pistons in the Finals, it was the final nail in the coffin for the two to go their separate ways.
While O’Neal barely missed making the top-10 in points per game, Bryant had another sensational year. Meanwhile, a few surprises from Sacramento and New Orleans popped into the scoring race, while Tracy McGrady reminded everyone that he was the real deal.
These were the top-10 scorers from the 2003-2004 season.
10. Michael Redd - 21.7 PPG
The season before, we saw Michael Redd put on some dazzling performances. That included making eight three-point field goals in the fourth quarter, which set an NBA record. That led to Redd signing a four-year offer sheet with the Mavericks, but the Bucks matched it to keep him in Milwaukee.
The Bucks were glad they did because it led to an increase in Redd’s performance. With Ray Allen being traded to the Seattle SuperSonics, Redd was rewarded with a full-time starting job that saw him average 21.7 points per game en route to making his first and only All-Star Game appearance.
9. Dirk Nowitzki - 21.8 PPG
When the Mavericks traded starting center Raef LaFrentz to the Celtics for Antoine Walker, head coach Don Nelson decided to start Nowitzki at center. To help deal with the physical toll, Nowitzki put on 20 pounds of muscle mass. For the first time in his career, Nowitzki saw his scoring average decrease.
With that said, he still led the Mavericks in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks. This helped him make the All-Star Game and the All-NBA Third Team. With a 52-30 record, the team made the playoffs but were ousted by the Kings in five games.
8. Tim Duncan - 22.3 PPG
Before the season began, Duncan signed a seven-year, $122 million contract with the Spurs, while David Robinson retired from the league. Duncan embraced the leadership role as the Spurs were coming off winning the 2003 championship. Statistically speaking, Duncan was strong with 22.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.7 blocks.
The combination of Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili was strong. The trio led the Spurs to the playoffs where they played the Lakers in the semifinals. With the series tied 2-2, Duncan nearly led the Spurs to an upset in Game 5, but a heave by Derek Fisher with 0.4 seconds left doomed their chances as the Lakers won in six games.
7. Vince Carter - 22.5 PPG
In his final season in Toronto, Carter played in 73 games but the Raptors fell three games short of the playoffs. The season saw the team draft future All-Star forward Chris Bosh with the No. 4 overall pick. The season saw ups and downs, which included beating the Nets early in the season only to have it followed by setting a post-shot clock record for the fewest points in a game with 56 against the Timberwolves.
After the first month of the season, the team traded Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams for Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall. The team posted just a 25-25 record after the All-Star break. In the end, Carter opted to get out and join the Nets.
6. Baron Davis - 22.9 PPG
Davis put the New Orleans Hornets on the map in just their second season in the league. The Hornets battled adversity, which featured losing Jamal Mashburn for 44 games due to a knee injury. With Davis leading the way, the team got off to a 17-7 start, but played .500 ball in February and lost 11 of 16 games in March.
Due to injuries, Davis played in just 67 games of the season but produced a strong statistical year. It gave hope to the fans starting to watch the team. However, Davis would play just 18 games for the Pelicans the following year as he was traded to the Warriors.
5. Paul Pierce - 22.9 PPG
After a 22-24 start to the season, head coach Jim O’Brien resigned after a 22-24 start. He was replaced by John Carroll, but the team lost 12 of their first 13 games of the season. After Danny Ainge said the team would be better off missing the playoffs, the Celtics posted a 9-5 record in March and would make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
It was the first time an NBA team made the playoffs with a losing record since the 1996-1997 Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce was selected to the 2004 All-Star Game, while Carroll was eventually replaced by Doc Rivers. Then, the really good years of Pierce’s career took off.
4. Kobe Bryant - 24.0 PPG
The Lakers were able to acquire Karl Malone and Gary Payton with championship hopes on their minds. The Lakers were coming off a season where they were defeated by the Spurs after making the Finals three straight years. The Lakers clinched the Pacific Division title in the final game of the season that saw Bryant make two buzzer-beaters to win the game over the Trail Blazers.
With a starting lineup of Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant, Malone, and Payton, the team made the NBA Finals. In the series, Bryant averaged 22.6 points per game but shot 35.1% from the field. The Pistons upset the Lakers and Shaq was traded to Miami for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, and Brian Grant. Meanwhile, Bryant signed a seven-year, $136 million contract to stay with the Lakers.
3. Kevin Garnett - 24.2 PPG
Garnett was named MVP for his efforts of leading the Timberwolves to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. In the years past, Garnett was a one-man show but saw surrounding pieces in Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell, and Troy Hudson step up. Garnett averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks and was named the best player in the league.
Garnett led the Timberwolves to a franchise record of 58 wins and made the Conference Finals. There, a back injury to Cassell has been said to be the difference-maker in Minnesota losing to the Lakers in six games. Since then, the team hasn’t come close to this type of playoff success, or a player such as Garnett.
2. Peja Stojakovic - 24.2 PPG
From 2002 to 2004, Stojakovic was named to the All-Star Game as a representative of the Kings. In his final All-Star appearance, Stojakovic finished runner-up in the scoring race and fourth in the MVP voting. His career-high 24.2 points per game featured him leaving the league in free throw percentage at 93.3%.
Stojakovic also led the league in making three-point shots with 260. Stojakovic is remembered as one of the best players to ever wear a Kings uniform. On December 16, 2014, the team decided to retire his No. 16 jersey for his efforts back in the day.
1. Tracy McGrady - 28.0 PPG
It was an up and down season for McGrady, to say the least. After a 1-10 start to the season, head coach Doc Rivers was fired. There were then reports circulating that McGrady and General Manager John Weisbrod had friction in their relationship. All season long the Magic struggled to win as the team battled injuries.
The one saving grace was that McGrady won the scoring title for his second consecutive season. His best effort came late in the season when he scored a career-high 62 points against the Washington Wizards. For the season, McGrady averaged 28.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. In regards to total points, McGrady was third behind Stojakovic (1,964) and Garnett (1,987).