Former Teammate Details Why Lakers Lost 2004 Title to Pistons: ‘Kobe Selfishly Wanted MVP’

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers were loaded with superstars, but lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

Despite having Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone all on the same team, the Lakers won just one game against Detroit.

Former Lakers guard Kareem Rush believes that Bryant’s desire to win the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award contributed to the loss.

“I mean, they simply outplayed us,” Rush said. “Karl was hurt in that series. And I think Kobe selfishly wanted MVP.

“I think that we were favored by everybody to win the series you know, and at the time Shaq had the first three Finals MVPs. So I think Kobe had the mindset with that as the primary focus, but I think he was really itching to get that MVP — and we got caught off guard by a better team.

“The Pistons were — they went on to do seven straight in the [Eastern] Conference Finals so that team was a winning team for the ages and they had a starting five that was very formidable. Those were all All-Star caliber.

“They had a couple of Hall of Famers in Ben Wallace and Chauncey [Billups] – and maybe even Rip (Richard Hamilton). So they were definitely a formidable team and they were better than us at the time.”

Malone played in just four of the five games in the series due to injury.

The Lakers shot poorly as a team from the field during the series at just 41.6 percent. They also shot a pedestrian 24.7 percent from 3-point range.

Bryant in particular struggled with his shot, despite playing a team-high 46.2 minutes per game.

The Laker legend shot 43-for-113 from the field in the series (38.1 percent) and just 4-for-23 from 3-point range.

While he struggled in 2004, the 18-time All-Star would go on to win two more championships and two Finals MVPs in his illustrious career.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.