The 2003-2004 NBA season featured a lot of events that many fans from today would question. For example, the Timberwolves and Kings were highly competitive, the Pistons shocked the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, and the Trail Blazers missed the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, while the Jazz missed for the first time in 20 years.
As for some of the other events, the Kobe Bryant and Shaq feud was at its peak, while new faces of the league in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony were all rookies. Tracy McGrady became the first scoring leader since Bernard King in 1985 to lead the league in scoring and fail to make the playoffs.
Among the other major events from this season, let’s take a look at the 2004 NBA Award winners.
Most Valuable Player - Kevin Garnett
2nd Place: Tim Duncan; 3rd Place: Jermaine O’Neal
Leading up to this season, Garnett was one of the top players in the league. The Timberwolves made moves for Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell to help the team contend. Garnett had one of his best seasons with 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks per game. Garnett recorded career highs in points, rebounds, and blocks to earn MVP.
The Timberwolves stormed to 58 wins on the season and were able to make a run to the Western Conference Finals. At one point, Garnett had to play point guard due to Cassell going down with an injury. It remains the best season in team history and the Timberwolves have made the playoffs just one time since 2004.
Defensive Player Of The Year - Metta Sandiford Artest
2nd Place: Ben Wallace; 3rd Place: Theo Ratliff
With the Pacers, Sandiford Artest averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He made the All-Star Game as a reserve and wore three different jersey numbers throughout the season. The Pacers won 61 games this season, which included a strong start of 14-2. With Jermaine O’Neal finishing third in the MVP voting and Sandiford Artest by his side, the Pacers were a strong team in the East.
What made Sandiford Artest stand out was his defense. Playing strong defense was something that he carried out throughout his entire career. He was definitely known for his toughness as well, something that would nearly get him kicked out of the league the following season in Detroit.
Rookie Of The Year - LeBron James
2nd Place: Dwyane Wade; 3rd Place: Carmelo Anthony
After a sensational high school career, LeBron James received so much hype around his draft status. With Michael Jordan officially leaving the league, the league was ready for a new face. May projected James to be that as the Cavaliers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick. James joined his hometown team and made an immediate impact in his first game of the season with 25 points.
His game total set a record for most points by a prep to a pro player in his debut. At the end of the season, he became the first Rookie of the Year in team history. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. He became just the third player in league history to average a line of 20//5/5 as a rookie. Cleveland won 18 more games but failed to make the playoffs.
Sixth Man Of The Year - Antawn Jamison
2nd Place: Al Harrington; 3rd Place: Manu Ginobili
In 2003, Jamison was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in a nine-player deal that included Danny Fortson, Chris Mills, Jiri Welsch joining him in Dallas. With the Mavericks, Jamison experienced his first winning season as the team finished 52-30. The Mavericks qualified for the playoffs and it was the first time that Jamison got to enjoy that as well.
Jamison averaged 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and shot 53.5% from the field in 29.0 minutes of action. It would ultimately be his only season with the Mavericks as he would join the Wizards next. In the playoffs, the Mavericks were defeated by the Kings in the first round.
Most Improved Player - Zach Randolph
2nd Place: Carlos Boozer; 3rd Place: James Posey
Randolph won the award in his second season in the league. In his rookie campaign with the Trail Blazers, Randolph averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 0.5 assists per game. That would grow to 20.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game the following year. Randolph was a lone bright spot for the team going through a rebuild.
During the season, the team traded Bonzi Wells and Rasheed Wallace. It forced Randolph to pick up the slack and he led the team in scoring and rebounding. The team finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1982. The 21-year streak was the second-longest of all time.
Coach Of The Year - Hubie Brown
After 16 years out of the league, Brown made his way back to the NBA and was tapped as the head coach of the Grizzlies before the 2002-2003 season by Jerry West. It was a controversial decision at the time as Brown was 69 years old and the oldest coach in the league. Brown finished 28-46 with the team, but it set the team up for a complete turnaround the following year.
The Grizzlies qualified for the playoffs for the first time in team history by finishing 50-32. Brown was named Coach of the Year after guiding the team to this height in their ninth season since joining the NBA. The team had a strong finish by winning 13 of their 15 games in March. Pau Gasol led the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. In the playoffs, the Grizzlies were defeated by the Spurs.
NBA Champions - Detroit Pistons
Runner-Up: Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA Finals saw a dynasty versus Detroit. The Lakers, headed by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, were considered the heavy favorites as the Lakers owned home-court advantage. The Pistons barely fought through the Indiana Pacers to make the Finals, but the team was able to make it back for the first time in 14 years since the days of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
Not only did the Pistons defeat the Lakers, but the Pistons did it in five games. Richard Hamilton led the team with 21.4 points per game, while Ben Wallace was strong inside with 10.8 points and 13.6 rebounds. Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince all averaged double figures in the team effort.
Finals MVP - Chauncey Billups
For the regular season, Billups averaged 16.9 points, 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. In the playoffs, Billups had multiple big moments to help Detroit get to the Finals. That included scoring 21 points in a pivotal Game 3 against the Bucks. In the semifinals, Billups banked a half-court three to send Game 5 to overtime against the Nets. In the Conference Finals, he helped a team defense hold the Pacers to 72.7 points per game.
In the Finals, he averaged 21.0 points, 5.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals. He also shot 50.1% from the field, 47.1% from the three-point range, and 92.9% from the free-throw line. After the series, Billups called the championship a team effort and deferred that he was the best player on the floor.
2004 NBA Season - All-Star MVP, All-NBA Teams, All-Rookie Teams, All-Defensive Teams
All-Star Game MVP: Shaquille O’Neal
All-NBA First Team: Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal
All-NBA Second Team: Sam Cassell, Tracy McGrady, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace
All-NBA Third Team: Michael Redd, Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming
All-Rookie First Team: Kirk Hinrich, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh
All-Rookie Second Team: T.J. Ford, Jarvis Hayes, Marquis Daniels, Josh Howard, Udonis Haslem
All-Defensive First Team: Bruce Bowen, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Kevin Garnett, Ben Wallace
All-Defensive Second Team: Jason Kidd, Doug Christie, Theo Ratliff, Andrei Kirilenko, Tim Duncan
Most Points Scored By One Player Against Every NBA Team: Wilt Chamberlain 100-Point Game Will Never Be Broken