The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers occupy an interesting place in NBA history.
They are somehow one of the most disappointing teams of all time, yet they maintain that status despite making the Finals.
One of the reasons why fans feel so strongly about that Lakers group is because in the preseason they went out and added two Hall of Famers to the pair that was already on the roster.
Gary Payton and Karl Malone joined Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on a super team coached by Phil Jackson.
Only as it turns out – this occurred against Jackson’s wishes.
Author Jeff Pearlman, who penned the infamous ‘Three Ring Circus’ book about the Lakers of that era, divulged an interesting tidbit about Jackson’s true feelings on Payton.
Specifically, the legendary coach didn’t feel like it was the right fit.
“Phil Jackson never wanted Gary Payton to be a Laker,” Pearlman wrote.
“It’s true, and while Los Angeles’s coach greeted the veteran point guard’s signing with smiles and nods and a big thumbs-up, he had been around long enough to know that even the most smoothly run operation was always one bad apple removed from rot. In this acquisition, however, Jackson was granted no say. Shaquille O’Neal aspired to put together a super team.”
It wasn’t just O’Neal, though.
“Kobe Bryant aspired to put together a super team,” Pearlman continued.
“Karl Malone aspired to join a super team, but not without Payton, his longtime rival/friend.
“So even though the triangle offense was no place for a score-first point guard with an ego and a love of the forever dribble, and even though Jackson considered Derek Fisher to be the perfect runner of the show, Jim Buss—Jerry Buss’s son and the team’s assistant general manager—insisted that Payton be signed. And now he was a Los Angeles Laker.”
The photos speak for themselves. https://t.co/69D1YRHqTO
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 30, 2022
While Payton didn’t sink the Lakers’ ship in 2004, he also didn’t do much to help. There is a fair case to be made that they would have had the exact same season if he wasn’t on the roster.
Based on how Jackson was able to see the future and realize how useless Payton would be on that ’04 team, it is safe to say his instincts were spot on yet again.