Welcome To The Circus: The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers

The End of the Championship Run

The Los Angeles Lakers would end their quest for four consecutive titles with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. 

Throughout the series with the Spurs, L.A. would struggle defensively against point guard Tony Parker and power forward Tim Duncan.

Following the Game Six loss in San Antonio, Kobe Bryant would leave the court in tears, stating that he never wanted to experience this again.


Two Stars Join in the Championship Chase

Derek Fisher had been abused defensively in the postseason by opposing point guards, as had Robert Horry against power forwards. 

This led Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson to one conclusion: the Lakers needed better defense from those positions if they were going to get back to the Finals.  

Two aging players who had played their entire careers with the same teams were free agents in the summer of 2003. Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, and Gary Payton of the Seattle Supersonics. Both were among the greatest players of all time, and surefire future Hall of Famers.  

With each taking less money in order to join Jackson, O'Neal, and Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone signed contracts with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 16, 2003. 

They each stated that their intentions were no longer to be great individual players, but instead to finish their careers with a title. 

It appeared that L.A. had fixed its point guard-power forward problem in an emphatic manner.


A Star Falls From Grace

Just two days after the signings of Payton and Malone, the Laker championship hopes would be dealt a massive blow. Arguably the game's greatest player, Kobe Bryant would be charged with sexual assault on July 18, 2003.

With the criminal case taking place in Colorado, it looked as though K...

About the Author