With Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal leading the Los Angeles Lakers, the team had one of the most dominant runs in NBA history. They won three straight NBA Championships, but everything ended terribly with their 2004 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons.
The additions of Hall-of-Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone were supposed to guarantee a championship, but Payton never quite fit with the triangle offense, and Malone’s injury hurt the chemistry of the team. The Pistons, all on the same page, took advantage of the fractured Lakers for one of the most shocking NBA Finals upsets ever.
Nearly 14 years later, Kobe still hasn’t forgotten about that loss. In fact, in the recent Players Only interview alongside O’Neal, it was Kobe who took responsibility and blamed himself for the Finals loss:
“The Pistons thing, that’s my fault. I didn’t get us prepared to run our automatics. I didn’t get Gary, I didn’t get Karl, I didn’t get the new guys on board enough to be able to execute properly. When we got to Detroit, they forced us to play our offense 94 feet. We weren’t ready and we couldn’t do it. Everything just capitulated from there. That still sits with me. We should’ve won that.”
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Kobe is still bothered by those NBA Finals as that was one of his worst performances individually, along with being one of the most disappointing team outcomes. For a competitor like Kobe, he will always think about what he could have done differently.
Nonetheless, it simply wasn’t meant to be for Kobe, Shaq and the rest of the Lakers. Thankfully for Kobe he was still able to recover and win two more rings after this, while also conquering the rival Boston Celtics. Had he retired with unavenged losses to both Boston and Detroit however, Kobe probably wouldn’t be able to handle it.
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