The Lakers, a heavy favorite, lost to the Pistons in five games, failing to capture their fourth championship in five years.
“They were a better team,” Bryant told ESPN. “They executed extremely well. They played extremely well and executed well ... They kicked our ass.”
Los Angeles lost despite loading up in the off-season prior, adding Gary Payton and Karl Malone to the core of a team that had already won three titles. After the loss in the Finals, the Lakers parted ways with Payton, Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant did not return to the Finals until 2008.
Bryant will almost assuredly end his career with five championships. His Lakers team also lost to the Celtics in the 2008 Finals, but Bryant told ESPN he was okay with where his career will end.
“Listen, I worked as hard as I possibly f---ing could," Bryant said. “I did everything I could. I'm fine with that. ... When I started playing basketball, I knew I didn't want to have any regrets. I wanted to push as hard as I can, as much as I can. I've done that. So I'm completely fine with that.”