Lakers history is steeped in championships won with Hall-of-Fame players. For some fans, a landmark moment in the franchise's history was the championship it didn't win with a roster loaded with future Hall-of-Famers. No, not what will likely become of this disastrous season, but the 2003-2004 Lakers.
The Lakers already had Shaq and Kobe - one of the greatest duos of all-time. When the organization added Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the summer of 2003, they became the first modern "super team".
LA ended up losing the Finals that year to the Detroit Pistons in a gentleman's sweep (4-1). Sports Illustrated's Howard Beck, who was covering the Lakers at the time, called the David-versus-Goliath storyline overblown. Beck provided his perspective to Logan Murdock on an episode of The Ringer's Real Ones podcast.
"The Three Musketeers, all-for-one-one-for-all, gutty little Pistons with no stars beat the big bad Goliath with all of their Hall-of-Famers was over mythologized narrative."
Beck discussed how many point to the 2003-2004 Lakers team as an example of why a super team doesn't work. As someone who reported on it every step of the way, he's not buying the story most are selling. Beck contends that it was the horrible relationship between Shaq and Kobe, not having too many Hall-of-Famers, that doomed the Lakers.
"I don't look at that, the narrative at the time that has endured all these years. It wasn't the failure of a super team. It was really the failure of Shaq and Kobe.
The veteran reporter did state that the Pistons deserve some credit for winning their ring, but Beck also talked about the other factors at play that season.
"Those two [Shaq and Kobe], are the reason that they didn't win. Not because of Gary Payton, Karl Malone and everything else. There's a little of everything. Horace Grant was creaky and towards the end [of his career]. Everybody was on their last legs, a lot of them were. They were a lot of things that went into that."
According to Beck, the Finals loss wasn't a reinforcement of why super teams can't work nor a guts-over-glitz triumph. It was evidence of how two superstars can tear a team apart.