Kobe Bryant: A Look Back at His First NBA Finals Loss

Kobe Bryant: NBA Finals 2004 (Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons)

During the 2002-03 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were attempting to become the first team since the 1960s Boston Celtics to win four championships in succession. That dream would end brutally in the second round of the playoffs, as the Lakers were eliminated in six games by the eventual-champion San Antonio Spurs.  

As he left the court in tears following that Game Six, Kobe Bryant said that he never wanted to feel that feeling again. At the beginning of the summer of 2003, it appeared he may get his wish. 

With the additions of aging stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone, the Los Angeles Lakers boasted the most star-studded lineup since the 1999 Houston Rockets. Another Lakers championship seemed a foregone conclusion.

In a single moment that would come to epitomize one of the most dramatic and dysfunctional teams in the history of sports. Bryant's hope to never experience a postseason loss again suddenly became the least of his problems. Accused of rape and prosecuted in criminal court, it appeared that the Lakers' hopes of another title had vanished.

It seemed a near certainty that Bryant would take the season off as he attempted to fight for his freedom in court. However, Bryant maintained that he wanted to pursue another title with this team. He would play the entire season, missing games only for interfering court dates or injuries.

As if Bryant's rape trial were not a large enough distraction, the Lakers' two best players began a feud that would dominate the sports media. The unprecedented public battle between Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant would take the already fascinating Lakers season to a surreal level.

During the 2002-03 season, O'Neal suffered an injury. Los Angeles was forced to rely heavily on Bryant for the first time. Bryant responded with one of the greatest scoring runs in history. His amaz...

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