The Los Angeles Lakers will finish the 2013-14 NBA season with a losing record. For the franchise with the second-most championships in league history — 16 to the Boston Celtics’ 17 — this is a rarity. How rare? It will be just the second time in past 20 seasons (including this season) that the Lakers have finished below .500.
The last time this happened was the 2004-05 season. That was the year following Los Angeles falling to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, after which Kobe Bryant threw down an ultimatum to the organization: Either Shaq goes or I go.
The Lakers complied, choosing to go with the younger Bryant, ultimately trading O’Neal to the Miami Heat in exchange for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round pick. And with Shaq went coach Phil Jackson, who retired and was replaced with former Houston Rockets championship-winning coach Rudy Tomjanovich.
There was reason to be optimistic in Los Angeles, as Odom, Butler and Grant had all played very well together in Miami. But it was clear the Heat were getting the prize, and Shaq helped Miami to its first NBA title with the help of Dwyane Wade (and some questionable refereeing, right Mavs fans?).
Meanwhile, the Lakers had no such luck. In Year 1 A.S. (After Shaq), L.A. had its worst season in more than a decade, finishing 14 games under .500 at 34-48. Looking back at the roster, it’s not hard to figure out why.