The Decade’s Top 10 Lakers Moments We’d Like to Forget

Jeff Skibiski —  August 24, 2010

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Sometimes, I wish there were a way to control sports teams with the simple click of a TIVO remote–recording iconic moments, rewinding great plays, fast-forwarding through lulls and deleting moments we can’t bear to watch again. However, if we simply clicked “erase” on those ominous dark days, we’d also miss out on all of the character-building, resolve and perspective that defines eventual champions. In order to better understand just how far the Lakers have come in a somewhat astonishingly short period of time, we flip through the past decade’s history books for the 10 most painful Lakers moments from 2000-2010. Kleenex boxes: optional.

1). Game 6, 2003 Western Conference Semifinals, Lakers vs. Spurs: After back-to-back-to-back NBA titles, an old foe finally ended the Lakers dynastic reign in grandiose fashion, defeating the defending champions 110-82. As the final surreal moments of the clock ticked away, a camera panned to the Lakers bench, before closing in on the faces of Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, tears flowing from both. As they cried, an entire nation of Lakers fans mourned with them.

2). Kobe Bryant arrested on suspicion of rape: The entire sports landscape felt the aftershock from the stunning July 4, 2003 announcement that an arrest warrant had been issued for the golden child of the NBA. The media salivated over the ensuing court proceedings as Eagle Rock, CO became a hotbed overnight, meanwhile the Lakers tried to downplay the drama on their way to the Finals. It’s been more than seven years since that fateful day and though few even mention that tiresome season anymore, the nightmare still resonates.

3). Detroit defeats L.A. to win the 2004 Championship: After an offseason overhaul that brought in Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton, Fisher’s miracle 0.4 shot to exact revenge against the Spurs in the Conference Semifinals and a season of dealing with Bryant’s legal drama, it was starting to look like the 2003-2004 injury-ravaged Lakers were a team of destiny. Unfortunately, that destiny involved a shocking five game walloping by the upstart Pistons that altered the entire course of the team.

4). Shaq is traded: If the Lakers title party effectively ended in defeat to the Spurs the season prior, their stunning five game exit against the Pistons in the 2003-2004 Finals served as the after party. Once the music finally stopped playing, the team was left with a messy hangover to deal with, starting with a giant 7’1” headache known as Shaquille O’Neal. With one fell swoop, L.A. shipped their All-NBA center to the Miami Heat as they handed the keys to the franchise over to Kobe.

5). Phil Jackson leaves the Lakers: Coach Jackson’s departure from the team was hard enough to deal with, but reading through every last detail of The Last Season was like driving by a bad car crash; as much as you don’t want to look at the wreck, you can’t help but sneak a peak. In this case, it was even worse since fans knew the players involved.

6). Game 6 of the Lakers’ 2006 First Round loss to Phoenix: Just when it seemed like all hope was lost in L.A., Kobe delivered one of the most legendary shots of his career, connecting on a game-winning jumper in OT to give the Lakers a 3-1 series lead over the pesky Steve Nash-led Suns. Even after a Game 5 loss on the road, the Lakers were mere seconds away from setting up a potential Hallway Series against the Clippers before Tim Thomas drilled a three-point dagger that hushed the raucous STAPLES Center crowd and propelled Phoenix to an eventual seven game series win.

7).  Summer of 2007:  After early exits from the playoffs in two straight seasons, Kobe opened his mouth and told the world that he had had enough. Enough of sub par rosters that included the likes of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown as staples. Enough of waiting for Andrew Bynum to develop, while players like Jason Kidd were readily available. When the best player in the NBA, then in his prime, says he’s finished with losing unless something changes, you listen. That’s exactly what the Lakers did, sifting through numerous trade proposals for their longtime superstar, meanwhile impending doom settled upon Laker Land. We’ll never know how close Mitch Kuchak and the team’s brain trust actually came to trading Bryant, but the prospect was terrifying at the time.

8). Bynum injures knee in January 2008: Irony is a funny thing in sports. After a summer of turmoil in which Bryant called for Bynum’s swift exodus, the budding young center played stellar basketball the first half of the season and suddenly represented Kobe’s greatest hope for another championship. Unfortunately, his devastating season-ending knee injury against the Grizzlies on January 13, 2008 temporarily (see: Pau Gasol) quelled those aspirations, along with fans’ newly raised expectations.

9). Boston comes back from 24 down in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals: Despite losing two of the first three games of the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers still felt confident knowing the next two games would be played on their home floor. Through two and a half quarters, the team’s play echoed that mindset as they built a seemingly insurmountable 24-point lead and seemed poised to tie the series at two games apiece. The never-say-die Celtics refused to roll over though and mounted a furious (and historic) comeback to win the game and eventually the series. I’d venture to say that it took this year’s rematch against Boston for most fans to finally rid themselves of the shock-and-awe assault from that game.

10). The Celtics blowout the Lakers to win the 2008 Championship: Any sliver of hope that the Lakers would stage an epic comeback in Games 6 and 7 was tarnished halfway through Game 6 en route to a 131-92 manhandling by the C’s. The blowout exposed the Lakers’ soft interior defense and inexperience outside of Kobe and Fisher. Sure, the Lakers would retool a bit that offseason, but would they recover? It was a question that stayed with the team for the duration of the 2008-2009 season.

Jeff Skibiski

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47 responses to The Decade’s Top 10 Lakers Moments We’d Like to Forget

  1. Well that kinda ruined my day.

  2. to counter that unrelenting woe, I note that Rondo is quits with team USA, evidently by mutual agreemony.

  3. The beauty of all these moments is that though the Lakers hit the ground so many times through the decade, they could constantly recuperate and become the franchise of the 2000s.

  4. Number 9 is my number 1. That game felt like a dentist forgot the novocaine. While working on my heart. No, that doesn’t make sense. Either did that game.

    Alongside that is the 2003 game prior to the final game where the team clawed its way back and had the chance to win on a last second Horry 3 that went halfway down before rimming out. That’s when you knew the “magic” had gone out. That shot was SUPPOSED to go down and for the next week every dream I had tried to force it to do so. Like something out of Inception.

    #6 sucked, but I still have strong positive feelings about that series. LA was never supposed to compete, let along go up 3-1. I knew, even if all the ESPN heads kept saying “No way Phoenix wins 3 in a row” that it was a crap shoot then with 2 of the 3 in Phoenix. LA was going to have to win a close 1 in LA to win the series. And they didn’t. Disappointing, yes, but I’ve kept it positive with perspective.

    Great list! Or Terrible List. However you want to approach that…

  5. Those all brought back the knot in my stomach similar to when I experienced them in real time. All of them except for Shaq being traded. I was so ready for him to go; having to listen to all the drama throughout the season.

    The most annoying thing was how he never came into the season in shape. I was done with him as a Laker fan. Even if it meant some rebuilding. Especially if it was a choice between him and Kobe; that’s a no-brainer.

  6. Thanks. Now I feel like watching videos of baby harp seals getting clubbed.

  7. Ouch, came to my favorite Lakers site to see Ray Allen and James Posey trying to out-smug each other on the front page.

    List seems okay (by that I mean terrible) but one thing I disagree with is that no one mentions the Kobe rape trial anymore. Every Kobe hater inevitably brings up the rape charge (unless you mean Laker fans don’t talk about it any more, in which case I’d probably agree).

  8. These moments hurt so bad when they happened, but I’m okay with them now. As Jeff points out, they built character and helped get this team to where it is now. But if you’re really that sad right now, you should just watch this clip, it always makes me smile.

  9. Not sure which phrases I hate to hear more: “Deeeeeeee-trooooiiiit basket-baaaaalllllllll,” which will forever remind me of 2004, or watching Garnett’s phony I-get-paid-by-adidas-but-will-still-screw-uo-the-company’s-slogan moment when he screamed, “Anything is possible.”

    Seriously, dude… Mike Penberthy and Elden Campbell won NBA titles before. Don’t act like your win in 2008 somehow broke into the realm of the “impossible.” You weren’t the first, not the last, not the best and not the worst ever to accomplish that feat. KG’s so phony it’s unreal. Go make another fake mean face for the cameras.

    Oh, and Mike Breen is now suicidal over the thought that he’ll have to wait until camp opens to see his mancrush Rondo on TV again.

  10. To all FB&G posters who lament the past 10-20 years of “bad moments,” I offer you “Docsology.”

    Simply apply Docsology on all your worst defeats.

    Here’s how. Using Doc “Revisionist” Rivers’ semantically-based logic, alas, Lakers’ history cam easily be re-adjusted.

    1980: unfortunately, we still can’t claim the title because our own Kareem got hurt, and we’ll just have to erase Magic’s amazing performance moonlighting as a center. Sorry, using Doc’s logic here.

    1989: Pistons didn’t really “win” the Finals because we didn’t have Magic and Byron due to injuries.

    2004: Oh, Malone got hurt, so let’s scratch that one off as well.

    and 2008: Bynum was hurt, so I guess neither team won the championship that year.

    I’m sure there are more Doc-based revisionist history here (please do chime in with more examples). What a world we would live in! BTW, according to Docsology, you can simply not start a starter in an elimination game, and still retain the “we didn’t have all our starters” title.

    (a modified repost from the previous thread… :-)

  11. Also, 7 and 8 have the titles mixed up, right?

  12. I’m rather surprised Chick Hearn’s passing didn’t make it on this list. When it happened, it was a very dark, sad day in Lakerland. It wasn’t a Lakers on-court moment, but Chick *was* the Lakers. I still miss him today.

  13. #11 I would say that the 7 and 7 titles are mixed up, there is no 8

  14. I’ve gone in and fixed the #’s 7 & 8 issue. Thanks for the heads up.

  15. #12 Dave in the City

    Chick Hearn’s passing definitely would be at or near the top of this list if we hadn’t focused on moments that directly impacted the team on the floor. That was a dark day for all of sports, really.

  16. Some Honorable Mention moments:

    Fall 2002 – Shaq has toe surgery “on company time” instead of early in the summer. Shaq’s absence combined with the lack of talent infusion (more on that later) forces other core Lakers (esp. Kobe) to play too many minutes, wearing them out by season’s end (there’s a reason Horry shot 2-38 on 3s in the playoffs).

    Fall 2003 – The whole Shaq-Kobe thing blows up. It should have been a reprise of 1987, when Kareem stepped aside to let Magic & Worthy be the dominant players. Instead, neither party could find it them to be the adult in the situation.

    Spring 2004 – The Lakers get old all at once. Trading Shaq made some sense (wanted max money, didn’t stay in shape, keeping him meant losing Kobe). Keeping D-Fish would have been nice, but he wasn’t worth full MLE money even back then.

    Winter 2005 – Rudy Tomjanovich resigns as coach. The Lakers were not going to be very good anyway, but players from that era admit that any semblance of teamwork went away once Rudy T. left.

    June 2000 – Lakers draft Mark Madsen, missing out on Michael Redd, Marko Jaric,
    Eddie House, Eduardo Najera, Brian Cardinal, Jason Hart, Malik Allen, Yakoubia Diahwara and Ime Udoka, any one of which would have helped the Lakers more.

    June 2001 – Lakers draft….no one. The pick was part of the Glen Rice trade. Lakers miss out on a chance at Tony Parker, Jamaal Tinsley, Mehmet Okur, Earl Watson, Andres Nocioni, Charlie Bell and others.

    June 2002 – Lakers make draft-day trade for Kareem Rush, missing out on Tayshuan Prince, Carlos Boozer, John Salmons, Udonis Haslem, Devin Brown, and others.

    June 2003 – Lakers draft…no one in the first round (pick part of Kareem Rush deal). Lakers take the poor-shooting can’t-guard-a-lamppost Luke Walton in the second round to go with poor-shooting can’t-guard-a-lamppost Mark Madsen.

    June 2004 – Lakers draft Sasha Vujacic who, along with the 2006 signing of Vlad Radmanovic ensure the Lakers are nowhere near tough enough to handle the 2008 Celtics.

    June 2005 – Lakers draft Andrew Bynum (Hooray!) along with ‘safe’ 2nd-round picks Rony Turiaf and Von Wafer. They miss out on athletic super-studs Monta Ellis and Andray Blatche, as well as solid players like Marcin Gortat, Ryan Gomes, Louis Williams and Chuck Hayes.

    June 2006 – Lakers draft Javaris Crittendon (who becomes part of the Pau Gasol deal), but miss out on Jared Dudley, Rudy Fernandez, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Brooks, Aaron Afflalo, Carl Landry, Glenn “Big Baby” Davis and Ramon Sessions.

    August 2000 – Lakers sign Isiah Rider. He was useless

    Summer 2000 – Lakers sign Slava Medvedenko. He was useless.

    Summer 2001 – Lakers sign Samaki Walker. He was useless.

    Summer 2002 – Lakers sign Soumaila Samake. He was not only useless, he got busted for steroid use despite weighing about 200 lbs. (at 6’10″) soaking wet.

    Summer 2002 – Lakers give their entire Mid-Level Exception to Devean George on the basis of one good series as the anti-Richard Jefferson. It’s unknown whether the likes of Raja Bell, Chauncy Billups, Michael Redd, Matt Harpring, Calbert Cheany, Rashard Lewis, or Bonzi Wells would have signed with the Lakers. But giving Devean all the money ensured that they would not.

    In light of all of the above, I think your #5 was actually a good thing in the long run. Prior to his departure, Laker personnel moves were largely dictated by desperate attempts to find underpriced veterans or savvy (but athletically challenged) rookies that fit with Jackson’s Triangle philosophies.

    With Jackson gone, Kupchak was able to take some calculated risks, most of which have paid off.

    Do you honestly think the Lakers would have made a move like Brian Cook (athletically challenged, good outside shooter) for Trevor Ariza (athletic stud, offensively uncertain) in the early 2000s? I don’t think so.

    While the Shaq-Kobe ego-fest almost guaranteed that the Lakers would eventually blow up, the failure of the front office to keep renewing the talent base hastened that blow-up date and laid the groundwork for the Lakers mid-2000s struggles.

  17. Chick’s passing should be 1
    just goes to show you, win or lose the Lakers are always there

  18. thank you so much for that clip of Ron, Darius… this list was beginning to make me well up…

  19. At the time # 6 was the worst feeling I have ever felt as a Lakers fan. I actually started to believe that Kobe was capable of winning a series with his greatness alone. When he made that layup to put the Lakers up three I was already wondering how much my ticket would cost for a Lakers Clippers freeway series. Then fantasizing about how the Lakers would defeat the Clippers as Kobe would refuse to lose to the cross-town door mats. All of a sudden we would have Kobe in the Conference Finals against the Spurs or Mavs. Unbelievable considering besides Lamar Odom being the uncomfortable second option, no one else on the team was reliable.

    But going back to the last post, this moment also makes me remember why I had such disdain for Kwame Brown. On the last play there was 7 seconds left, no shot clock, Tim Thomas had not yet picked up his dribble, and hadn’t head faked. However, Kwame still felt the need to soar by him providing a wide open look to tie the game, rather than stand in front of him with an outstretched arm that would have affected his shot (whether Kwame ever jumped or not).

    I think it’s great relieving these gut wrenching moments now, because they make the success the Lakers are having so much sweeter.

  20. *reliving not relieving

  21. I wouldn’t say that Kobe Bryant was the best player in the NBA heading into the summer of 2007. One of, sure. Fascinating post, nevertheless.

  22. Speaking of Phoenix AND Boston – Going BACK in time, the whole 1st round of the 1993 NBA playoffs vs. The Suns. In the POST-Magic pre-Kobe/Shaq era, LA takes a 2-0 lead on the top ranked Suns by winning both IN Phoenix, THEN losing the next 2 at home and eventually a Heartbreaker game 5 IN Phoenix…Then for those who remember there’s always game 7 of the 1969 NBA finals vs. Boston…

  23. uhm, I think today is the first time i regretted visiting FBG.

    the post itself, okay, fine, good, I see the point and all…

    but the photo of C’s on FBG was like seeing the C’s win on our floor.

    argh.

  24. #24. Ha. Sorry Harold. We’ll make it up to you over the course of the season.

  25. Jeff Skibiski : now you have to post

    “The Decade’s Top 10 Lakers Moments We’d never Forget”

  26. #6
    Nobody has mentioned it, but Tim Thomas jumped sideways with both feet in the air and shot the ball after both feet were back down on the court. Under anyone’s measure I thought that qualifies as traveling.

    I know the refs don’t call much at the end of games, but FIBA refs would certainly have gotten that one.

  27. 26, I second this motion. After reading this post, I feel like barfing everywhere.

  28. @Buzz Lightyear,

    Neither the 2005 or 2006 draft should be on your list. With the amount of luck involved in drafts, I think we did reasonably well. In 2005, on top of Bynum, getting a talent as solid as Turiaf in the 2nd round is nothing to be ashamed of. In 2006, getting a piece to get Pau Gasol automatically makes it not a bad draft.

    Sure we could have done better in those drafts, but almost every team can do better in almost every draft. No way should those make any “bad moments in the Lakers decade” lists.

  29. #26 & 28. I think that could definitely be worked on. If not by Jeff, than by me. Nominations for moments?

  30. I think honorable mention should go to anything related to Smush Parker.

  31. Darius, we’d have to exclude championships because otherwise we’d be picking top 5 or something…

    For me, one of my fondest memories was the 81 point game. To have that at the nadir of LA basketball and quite possibly the low point of Kobe’s career really was catharthic in a way and just had me re-energized.

  32. I couldn’t even look at the photo of the Celtics, but I did get a glimpse of Rondo…I think. (Dry heave!)

  33. Zephid, +1, yeah today was a day to not come over here, for sure.

  34. At 9am tomorrow morning Team USA will take on Greece. We’ll have a preview and chat up to discuss the game. Be sure to check in if you’re able to watch the game live.

  35. Odom in, Rondo out
    Lakers – 1 : Celtics – 0

  36. But i would’ve preffered it more if Odom had just rested for the upcoming season…

  37. Yeah. I have never appreciated a post I hated to see as much as this one.

    Seriously, feed me glory.

  38. It seems many are a bit sensitive to all aspects of the Lakers’ history. As I mentioned earlier, these moments were difficult ones for me to handle as a fan. But as Jeff said, these are the types of moments that build character and lay the foundation for future successes. Teams can’t forever be on top and these are examples of the times where the Lakers weren’t. Big deal. In reality, it’s these moments that make me appreciate where the Lakers are now so much more. Just think, you could be a Kings, Cavs, or Clippers fan where your franchise history is full of moments like these without the hardware and banners to make you feel better at the end of the day. In a summer where we celebrate a second consecutive championship, is remembering how low we’ve been really that bad? Jeez.

  39. Your top 1 is on the button for me as a fan. I could not sleep nor cared to watch basketball after that WCS loss to the Spurs. That loss prevented the lakers to capture a rare 4peat in a league with 29 teams playing. Had the lakers won it all during that year, people will be debating on the greatness of that 4peat team comparing it to the 8 straight by the Celtics, the 33 win streak of LA and the 72 wins of Chicago. When the lakers lost that year my Admiration for Shaq started to decline as my eyes were opened that had Shaq acted professionally and dedicated himself to winning titles who would have not thought that the Lakers could have won a 5peat or 6peat, a very rare feat inthe modern nba. Well this topic kinda set a sad tone for my day. I Just hope tomorrows FBG Topic would be the decades top 10 GREAT/HAPPY Moments!

  40. Kwame Brown, Luke Walton, Smush Parker, Lamar Odom, Kobe Byrant. That was the Lakers starting 5 in that 2006 playoff series.

    As far as I’m concerned carrying that team to within a missed Tim Thomas 3 pointer of the second round is one of Kobe Bryants greatest accomplishments.

  41. good list Darius

  42. tough post – number 9 never happened.

  43. For anyone like me that felt like they needed to get the bad vibes out after reading this, here you go…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVnoDGgA0o

  44. As a Celtics fan, I obviously enjoy this list but if I were a Lakers fan, at least I would take solace in the fact that my team rebounds well from these moments/games.

  45. 34-48. Nuf’ said. :D

    Actually, no… this was the year when we all found out that Kobe just wasn’t as good as everyone thought. It was even worse that the Lakers got 22 wins worse and the Heat got 17 wins better and then won the title the following season. It took trading a bunch of trash for a top-3 big man for everyone to start equating Kobe with Jordan again. And he’s clearly nowhere close. If you spend 2 minutes comparing their stats and don’t come up with the same conclusion, you’re delusional.

    Go Spurs Go.

  46. go spurs go?… where, dan?… nowhere near the western conference finals… that’s for damn sure…