In the offseason before the 2004-05 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers chose Kobe Bryant as their future by trading Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat amid rumors of an irreparable rift. The trade brought the Lakers Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, and a draft pick that became Jordan Farmar.
In their first season without O’Neal, the Lakers struggled. Nearly every major player on the team missed time with injury, and the roster looked very different without a dominant big man. L.A. went 34-48 and missed the postseason for the first time in Bryant’s career.
In the playoffs, it was all about the Detroit Pistons, Heat, Phoenix Suns, and San Antonio Spurs, who were by far the best two teams in their respective conferences. It seemed clear that the Finals matchup would come from these four teams.
It did, as the reigning champion Pistons went up against the continued greatness of the Spurs. Both teams were looking to add championships to already title-filled resumes.
It was a hard-fought seven-game series, but the Spurs ultimately won out. They took home their third title of the Duncan era, moving to 3-0 all time as a franchise in the Finals.
NBA regular season statistics
NBA regular season schedule and results
NBA playoffs statistics
NBA playoffs schedule and results