Why Michael Jordan is Forever Connected to the 2004 NBA Finals

Detroit Pistons beat Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals, the first championship of the post -Jordan era and year one of the Lebron James era.

Even though Michael Jordan had nothing to do with this NBA season or this Finals series, his finger prints are all over it.

Kobe Bryant, Lakers

There is no direct connection here, other than Bryant entered the league in 1996, looking to become the next Jordan. After Jordan left in 1998, Bryant won 3 straight titles between 2000-2002 and would go on to win two more in 2010-2011. He finished his career 1 championship behind Jordan and won all 5 with Phil Jackson, whom coached Jordan to all 6 of his.

Gary Payton and Karl Malone, Lakers

That Lakers team, in addition to Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, included Gary Payton and Karl Malone, who both joined the Lakers in hopes of winning a title. Jordan returned from baseball in 1995 and later that season, the Bulls lost to Shaq and the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. That was the only playoff series Jordan lost between 1991-1998.

His second three-peat began in 1996 with a Finals win over Payton and the Sonics. And won the next two years in ’97 and ’98 over Malone and the Jazz. Them failing against Jordan and then teaming up years later with Kobe to do what Jordan prevented them from doing, was quite fascinating.

Joe Dumars, Pistons GM

Pistons vs Lakers

Jordan lost to the Pistons three consecutive seasons (1988-1990) in the Playoffs, twice in the Eastern Conference Finals. When the Bulls did break through, their first NBA Finals victory in 1991 was against the Lakers.

Joe Dumars, Pistons GM

Dumars was a key member of those late ’80s Pistons teams, dubbed the “Bad Boys” that gave Jordan fits. Later in life, as exec with the Pistons, Dumars was responsible for putting together this championship winning team.

Richard Hamilton, Pistons

This Pistons team was led by Richard Hamilton, whom the Wizards traded away before the 2002 season, for Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse led MJ’s Wizards in scoring during Jordan’s final NBA season (the only teammate of Jordan’s to own that distinction). Hamilton averaged 20 ppg as Jordan’s teammate in 2001-02, his third year in the league.

Hubert Davis, Pistons

Davis was also part of that aforementioned trade, going from Washington to Detroit, after playing with Jordan in 2001-02. Davis was also impacted by Jordan as a member of the Knicks in the 90s, losing 2 out of 4 seasons in the playoffs to him, before they became teammates. Now, Davis is the head coach of Jordan’s alma mater, UNC.

Horace Grant, Lakers

Grant played 55 games for this Lakers team. Grant was with the Bulls from 1987-1994. He left Chicago after that and signed with the Magic, where he and Shaq beat the Bulls in 1995 to advance to the Finals.

Luke Walton, Lakers

Walton was a rookie on this Lakers team. Walton was the 32nd pick in the 2003 Draft, months after Jordan retired (and the same draft Lebron went #1). Luke is the son of legendary Hall of Famer and current commentator Bill Walton. Bill ended his NBA career on the Celtics from 1985-1987. In both of his seasons in Boston, the Celtics swept Jordan’s Bulls 3-0 in the first round (’86 and ’87 playoffs). In addition to playing with Kobe in LA, Walton coached Lebron in LA for one season in 2018-19.

Byron Russell, Lakers

Byron Russell might be the most famous guy from the 1998 Jazz Finals team, if only because it was him guarding Jordan on the final, game/series-clinching shot. Russell teamed up with Jordan in Washington in 2002-03, before joining this Lakers team, reuniting with Karl Malone, in hopes of winning a title.

Elden Campbell, Pistons

At this point, Campbell was a 35 year old who would play more one season. He averaged 13.6 minutes per game in the 5 games, backing up Ben Wallace at center. Campbell began his career as a rookie on the Lakers, drafted in the first round (#27) of the 1990 Draft. As a rookie, he was the Lakers’ 5th leading scorer (7.7 ppg) and 3rd in blocks (0.7 bpg) during the 1991 NBA Finals, when the Lakers lost to Jordan’s Bulls. That was ring #1 for MJ.

Connections between MJ, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.

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