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The Story Of 2004 Los Angeles Lakers Superteam And Why They Didn't Succeed

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The Story Of 2004 Los Angeles Lakers Superteam And Why They Didn't Succeed

The NBA has been filled with superteams over the past decade. For some fans, superteams have made the game exciting. To watch all this star power on a single team is something you can't miss.

For other fans, it's hurt the league. NBA team's used to be balanced. One or possibly two stars and a bunch of good role players.

Whichever style you like, it doesn't really matter because the “era of the superteams” is here to stay.

Look at the top two projected teams of this 2021-22 NBA season: The Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets.

The Lakers with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook look like a cheat sheet on paper. The Brooklyn Nets aren't far behind with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden.

That's a lot of talent on one team, but when did the superteam start? Most people claim it was in 2010 when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh joined forces in Miami.

That Miami team was not the first superteam ever assembled. It did, indeed, start the new trend, but I wouldn't call it the original superteam.

What about the 2008 Boston Celtics? This was the team that forced LeBron to go to Miami and join forces with Wade and Bosh. But I'd say no to the 08 Celtics as well.

Yes, they had Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, but I still wouldn't consider the first superteam.

Many fans look back to the 1980s at those Lakers teams. With Magic, Kareem, and James Worthy, it's not hard to see why people would say that.

But I wouldn't say they were, either. Kareem demanded a trade to the Lakers from the Milwaukee Bucks in 1975.

The Lakers were up and down as a team until they drafted Magic Johnson in 1979. They turned into an instant NBA championship team.

Then, when the Lakers drafted James Worthy in 1982, they became the best team of the decade.

A team that drafted most of their players, isn't a superteam. A superteam is when players team up with certain players on purpose to try to make winning easier.

That's why the first superteam to fit that label was the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers signed Shaquille O'Neal away from the Orlando Magic in July 1996, then they drafted Kobe Bryant straight out of high school.

The Lakers would dominate the league in only a few years. They'd follow suit of the 90s greatest team, the Chicago Bulls, by winning three straight titles in 2000-02.

Then, 2003 happened. The Lakers were on top of everyone's list to win the title, but Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs had other ideas.

Tim Duncan and the Spurs won the title in the 1999 season, but not everyone agreed their championship was legit.

Shaquille O'Neal had this to say about the 1999 NBA season and the Spurs title:

“I won a championship in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2006, and it was done the right way. The correct way. For example, if we would have won the championship in 1999, I would not have accepted that. It’s not a real season.”

Shaq would go on to add the 1999 San Antonio Spurs title will always have an “asterisk” by it. The reason Shaq says this is because of the lockout that shortened the NBA season.

By the time the 2003 NBA playoffs arrived, when the Spurs met Shaq's Lakers in the semifinals, Duncan was out to prove he was a real champion.

The Spurs held the number one seed in 2003, while the Lakers were the fifth seed. That didn't stop most people from picking the Lakers to win.

Then, the series started and saw the Spurs jump out to a 2-0 series lead. After the Lakers defended their home court to tie the series, the Spurs won the next two and ended the Lakers' chance at a 4-peat.

A lot of talk went on about Kobe and Shaq not getting along. This must have been the reason they lost, right? What were the Lakers going to do to get back on top?

These questions swirled around Tinseltown and around the NBA world. The Lakers would answer these questions during the offseason.

The purple and gold signed two future Hall of Famers, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, to play alongside Shaq and Kobe.

Some people have said and still say this Lakers squad had one of the best starting lineups in league history.

The media attention should have been all about the signings of Payton and Malone, and the Lakers' attention should have been on winning another title.

But then, in July 2003, the basketball world would learn of some shocking news. Kobe Bryant was arrested and accused of sexual assault.

This news story blew up the sports world, and it certainly made it harder for the new-look Lakers.

Despite the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, a knee injury to Karl Malone that saw him miss 39 games, and the Shaq and Kobe feud hitting an all-time high, the Lakers finished with the second-best record in the west (56-26).

When the playoffs hit, the Lakers steamed rolled past the Houston Rockets to win the series 4-1:

Western Conference First Round

- Lakers 72, Rockets 71

- Lakers 98, Rockets 84

- Rockets 102, Lakers 91

- Lakers 92, Rockets 88 (OT)

- Lakers 97, Rockets 78

The Lakers found themselves in a rematch with the San Antonio Spurs once again in the semifinals.

This time, things would go differently. The Spurs would jump out to another 2-0 series lead, but the Lakers would not lose again. They won the series 4-2.

Western Conference Semifinals

- Spurs 88, Lakers 78

- Spurs 95, Lakers 85

- Lakers 105, Spurs 81

- Lakers 98, Spurs 90

- Lakers 74, Spurs 73

- Lakers 88, Spurs 76

In the Conference Finals, the superteam Lakers would face off against the NBA MVP of the 2003-04 season, Kevin Garnett, and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Lakers proved to be too much for Garnett and the Timberwolves as the Lakers won the series, 4-2.

Western Conference Finals

- Lakers 97, Timberwolves 88

- Timberwolves 89, Lakers 71

- Lakers 100, Timberwolves 89

- Lakers 92, Timberwolves 85

- Timberwolves 98, Lakers 96

- Lakers 96, Timberwolves 90

When the NBA Finals matchup was set between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers were the heavy favorites.

The Lakers, filled with four stars of NBA lore, vs. the Pistons, who really didn't have a single star, this seemed like the biggest mismatch ever.

Then, the series started. The Lakers looked overwhelmed by the Pistons' stifling defense.

If it wasn't for a game-tying three by Kobe in the fourth to send game two to overtime, the Pistons may have swept the superteam Lakers.

The Pistons would settle for a 4-1 series win and the title.

How could this happen? A superteam losing to a team with no star player? The reason this happened was because the Detroit Pistons were a “real” team.

The Pistons had the perfect player to fit each role on the team. There was no ego problem in their locker room like it was in the Lakers' locker room.

This helped the Pistons play better as a team, as one unit, which the superteam in purple and gold, failed to do.

NBA Finals

- Pistons 87, Lakers 75

- Lakers 99, Pistons 91 (OT)

- Pistons 88, Lakers 68

- Pistons 88, Lakers 80

- Pistons 100, Lakers 87

The superteam Lakers would explode after the season. Coach Phil Jackson was fired. Shaq demanded a trade, and he was shipped to the Miami Heat.

Karl Malone would retire from the game, and Gary Payton was traded to the Boston Celtics.

Payton later explains why the 2004 Lakers superteam was a disaster, and he agrees that his 04 Lakers were the first superteam in NBA history.

I'd say it's hard to argue against an NBA champion and Hall of Fame basketball player.

The league may be filled with superteams once again, but maybe the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks championship will change the minds of GMs around the league. Maybe. 

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