2004 NBA Finals saw the Detroit Pistons beat Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games. This was the first championship of the post-Michael Jordan era.
Even though Jordan had nothing to do with this NBA season his finger prints are all over this Finals series.
Pistons vs Lakers
For starters, Jordan is very familiar with both teams.
Jordan lost to the Pistons in three consecutive post-seasons (1988-1990). Two of those series was in the Eastern Conference Finals. Joe Dumars was a key member of those Pistons teams, dubbed the “Bad Boys” that gave Jordan fits. Later in life, Dumars was the General Manager, responsible for putting together this championship Pistons team.
When the Bulls did break through, their first NBA Finals victory in 1991 was against the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Jordan and Kobe Bryant had a very strong relationship. Kobe 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 in total, all with Phil Jackson, whom coached Jordan to all 6 of his.
When Jordan returned from baseball in 1995, the Bulls lost to Shaq and the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. That was the only playoff series Jordan lost between 1991-1998.
Gary Payton and Karl Malone, Lakers
That Lakers team, in addition to Kobe and Shaq, included Gary Payton and Karl Malone, who both joined the Lakers in hopes of winning a title.
Jordan’s second three-peat began in 1996 with a Finals win over Payton and the Sonics. And the next two seasons ended with the Bulls beating Malone and the Jazz in ’97 and ’98.
Richard Hamilton, Pistons
This Pistons team was led by Richard Hamilton, whom Jordan’s Wizards traded away before the 2002 season, for Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse led the Wizards in scoring during Jordan’s final NBA season. He is 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.
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.
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.
Elden Campbell, Pistons
in 2004, Campbell was a 35 year old vet, who would play more one season after this. He averaged 13.6 minutes per game in the 5 Finals games, backing up Ben Wallace at center. Campbell began his career as a rookie on the Lakers, during their 1991 Finals loss to the Bulls. Campbell was the Lakers’ 5th leading scorer (7.7 ppg) and 3rd in blocks (0.7 bpg) during 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.