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Kobe Bryant was reason for Lakers’ 2004 NBA Finals loss, claims former teammate

Kobe Bryant, Lakers

Many have wondered what could have been if the Los Angeles Lakers had won their fourth title in five years by beating the Detroit Pistons in 2004. For Kareem Rush, a lot of the blame lies with Kobe Bryant, who badly wanted some self-recognition during that series.

At the time, the Lakers had a who’s who of All-Star-caliber players, led by additions like Gary Payton and Karl Malone, tied together with Rick Fox, Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. Yet Rush explained why Bryant had his eyes on something other than the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Via Brandon Robinson on The Scoop B Radio podcast:

“I mean, they simply outplayed us. Karl [Malone] was hurt in that series. And I think Kobe selfishly wanted MVP,” said Rush. “I think that we were favored by everybody to win the series you know, and at the time Shaq had the first three Finals MVP’s. 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 no slouches themselves. They were a surging team that made its name with defense and timely shot-making, which the former Lakers guard had to admit:

“The Pistons were — they went on to do seven straight in the 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,” said Rush. “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.”

The Lakers were taken by surprise in Game 1 but came back to win Game 2. After that, it was all Detroit, who never let a gifted scoring team like Los Angeles reach 100 points in the series.