In the summer of 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers made two franchise-altering moves. The first was signing All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal to what was the largest contract in NBA history, and the second was trading Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant.
This would go on to net them multiple championships, but it wasn’t immediately a game-changer. Bryant’s first season was spent largely on the bench while O’Neal dealt with injuries. L.A. still went 56-26 to get the No. 4 seed.
The lakers would get to the second round but lose in five games to Karl Malone, John Stockton, and the Utah Jazz. They eventually would get to the Finals to face a familiar opponent in Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls were dominant yet again, going 69-13, meaning in their last 164 regular season games, they went 141-23. They got to the Finals for the second straight year and defeated the Jazz in six to win their fifth title in seven years.
NBA regular season statistics
NBA regular season schedule and results
NBA playoffs statistics
NBA playoffs schedule and results