The 2004 NBA Finals are a sore spot for most Los Angeles Lakers fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, even if in retrospect the team simply making it there was kind of amazing.
Not only did the Lakers lose in five games against the Detroit Pistons with the original ‘super team’ of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, but the series was also Bryant’s first loss in the Finals and the first of two defeats he’d endure there.
Those facts make the series a tough memory for most fans of the Lakers, but for breakout rookie Kyle Kuzma, however, the series holds fonder memories.
Kuzma, a native of Flint, Mich., explained why that local connection mattered to him to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com:
“I was a Pistons fan. Laker fans probably aren’t going to like this, but I was very happy when the Pistons won (the 2004 NBA Finals). I’m from there, I was a big Tayshaun Prince fan. Big Ben. Growing up, I was a big Pistons fan. All Detroit teams, so I’m not a fake fan. If I’m from somewhere, I rep those teams.”
While Kuzma remains a fan favorite, it certainly makes perfect sense he was happy to see Detroit vanquish L.A. in the Finals. If he’s from the area, that’s just being loyal to it. The way many Lakers fans defend and cherish their franchise’s accomplishments.
The Pistons had a chance to draft Kuzma with the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but they instead took Luke Kennard. While that’s obviously looking like a mistake now with Kuzma playing the way he has and looking like a top-three pick, No. 12 would have been considered a reach on draft night.
The Lakers play at Detroit in March, and Kuzma certainly won’t be a fan that night. In fact, he’s probably going to spend the rest of his career making the Pistons wish they were as much of a fan of him as he was of them.