Former Los Angeles Lakers player Kareem Rush blamed Kobe Bryant for the team losing the 2004 NBA finals against Detroit Pistons.
The Lakers in 2004 had one of the strongest teams in the NBA. Apart from Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who were in their prime, they had experienced veterans like Karl Malone and Gary Payton. And there was Phil Jackson as their coach who had just led them to a three-peat and had nine NBA titles to his name. Clearly, when the Lakers faced the Pistons in the 2004 Finals, they had a great opportunity to win a fourth title in five years. But the Pistons beat them in five games.
Talking on The Scoop B Radio with Brandon Robinson, Rush looked back at why they lost the series. He said that Bryant looked for individual accolades that became one of the reasons for the team’s loss. When the Lakers won three consecutive titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002, Shaq was the Finals MVP on all three occasions. Rush said Kobe wanted to win the award at that time.
“I mean, they simply outplayed us. Karl was hurt in that series. And I think Kobe selfishly wanted MVP,” Rush said. “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.”
Rush went on to say that although the Lakers were a strong unit, the Pistons weren’t far behind. It was over a decade since they had last won a title, but had some quality players capable of lifting the trophy.
“They had a couple of Hall of Famers in Ben Wallace and Chauncey – and maybe even Rip [Hamilton]. So they were definitely a formidable team and they were BETTER than us at the time,” Rush said.
After the loss against Pistons, the Lakers had a few changes to their side. Most significantly, Shaquille O’Neal left the side and Phil Jackson was no longer their coach.
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