Most Disappointing Teams in NBA History Pt. 2

Kobe Bryant looking down in disappointment.

Kobe Bryant looking down in disappointment.

Trent Newman

There have always been shocking teams in the NBA that come out of nowhere and surprise the entire sports world. Teams like the 1995 Rockets, 1969 Celtics, 1999 Knicks, and other teams are some examples of teams on the good side of NBA history. But in this Part 2 of the “Most Disappointing Teams in NBA History,” we’re going to be looking at two more teams that ended up on the wrong side of history.


2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers

Gary Payton On Teaming Up With Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, And Karl Malone On The Los Angeles Lakers: "That Was Probably The First Superteam With The Four Of Us." - Fadeaway World
The 2003-04 Lakers’ newly acquired team.

Back in the 2003 Western Conference Semi-Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan had his way with the Lakers, as he averaged 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Spurs easily eliminated the Lakers in 6 games. This included a 6th game masterpiece from Duncan. He racked up 37 points and 16 rebounds to dominate the Lakers and win by 28 points. The defeat lit a fire under the Lakers, especially Kobe and Shaq, as they would end up getting revenge later in the season. The loss to the Spurs also fueled the Lakers front office to go get some more help. They went and got the older, but still effective, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Karl Malone was coming off a season averaging 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. Gary Payton was coming off a season averaging 20 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and nearly 2 steals, which was very good.

The 2003-04 regular season for the Lakers looked pretty good to start, as, in their first 19 games, they were 16-3. But from there, things got a little bumpy. Shaq got injured and the team lost 12 out of their next 19 games. Later in the season though, they got back on track. They had a stretch of 26 games where they went 22-4, including an 11-game winning streak in that stretch. They ended the season going 3-3 in the last 6 games and finished the season with a 56-26 record.

They met the Houston Rockets in the first round, and while Karl Malone struggled in the regular season that year, he stepped in in this series, averaging 18 and 10, all while Shaq didn’t have his regular scoring production and Kobe didn’t shoot efficiently. Karl Malone was arguably the best player for the Lakers in this series, as they rolled past the Houston Rockets in 5 games. Moving on to the second round, the Lakers had a rematch against the Spurs, and it looked like things were going to be the same as last year, as the Spurs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but then, something clicked. The Lakers would go on to win the final four games, including the infamous 5th game winner by Derek Fisher. Shaq and Kobe also dominated in typical Shaq and Kobe fashion, as in the final four games, Shaq averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks, while Kobe averaged 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Lakers got their revenge as they would move on to face the Timberwolves, with the MVP, Kevin Garnett. The Lakers would again defeat the Timberwolves in 6 games. Kobe averaged 24 and 5.5, while Shaq put in 21, 16, and 3 blocks. The Lakers locked in their trip to the Finals with Shaq putting up 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks in game 6.

The Lakers went on to face the massive underdog Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were led by their only all-star, Ben Wallace, along with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace. This series looked like one the Lakers should have easily won, but of course, things didn’t go their way. The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the heavily unfavored Detroit Pistons in just 5 games. Kobe Bryant had arguably the worst playoff series in his career, as he averaged just 22.6 points, 4.4 assists, and less than 3 rebounds on 38.4% shooting, while being outplayed by Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, with Tayshaun Prince giving him nightmares on the defensive end. The “help” that the Lakers acquired in the off-season (Karl Malone and Gary Payton), put up a combined 41 points on 17 for 52 from the field, in the entire series. Shaq did his part, while Kobe was the letdown, as in the final three games, he averaged just 18 points on 32.2% from the field, and 16.7% from three.

This could be the biggest disappointment in NBA history, and fans often do look back at this as possibly the biggest. Having four all-star caliber players/hall of famers and losing to a team that had 1 borderline all-star is terrible for a team of this magnitude.


2006-07 Dallas Mavericks

Back in the 2006 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks got matched up against the Miami Heat. The Mavs gave it their all, but were no match for Dwyane Wade and the Heat. The Heat beat the Mavericks in 6 games, and that left a chip on the shoulder of Dirk Nowitzki. Many fans felt like Dirk should have won MVP, so that’s already one thing Dirk was upset about. Then to add on top of that, he had a great playoff run that came up short in the Finals. Dirk came out in the next season with a fire lit under him.

Dirk Nowitzki receiving the 2006-07 MVP.

The Mavs started off the season on a 4-game losing streak, but turned it around quick, as they went on a 12-game winning streak right after that. A couple of games later, they started one of the all-time greatest streaks in regular season history. The Mavericks had a 40-game stretch where they went 38-2. In this stretch, Dirk averaged 25.6 and 9.4 rebounds on insane efficiency. With not much time left in the season after this stretch, many fans and a lot of the media had felt like this wrapped up the MVP case for Dirk. Dirk did end up winning MVP with maybe lower scoring numbers than in previous years, but a better team record and better efficiency. Dirk also had an amazing supporting cast this year, with Josh Howard, an all-star that season, putting up 19 and 7 rebounds, Jason Terry with 17 and 5 assists, Devin Harris adding 10 points and 4 assists, and Jerry Stackhouse off the bench with 12 points per game. Of course, the star player, Dirk, averaged 24.6 and 8.9 rebounds on 50/40/90 shooting splits. If Dirk had an off night though, it didn’t matter because Josh Howard, Jason Terry, or someone else would pick up the slack.

At this point, people were already looking past the first and second round of the Western Conference playoffs and were looking forward to Dirk’s Mavericks facing Tim Duncan’s Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, but before that could happen, both teams had to win their first two rounds. The Spurs successfully won their matchups and made it to the Western Conference Finals, but the Mavs would go on to face some trouble in the first round.

The Mavericks were the number 1 seed in that year’s playoffs with a 67-15 record, and it looked like they would easily take care of business in the first round against the Golden State Warriors, who were led by Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and Stephen Jackson. The Mavericks would lose the first game with a terrible performance from Dirk, but still, at this point, it looked like nothing to worry about, as they came back and won game 2. But this is where things got shaky. The Mavs would get blown out in game 3 and lose a close 4th game by 4 points. In the 4th game, Dirk shot 4/12 in the second half. Down 3-1, the Mavericks went into desperation mode, so their MVP showed up in game 5. Dirk put up 30 points and 12 rebounds in game 5, giving the Mavericks a victory, but this would be his MVP-type game of the season. In game 6, the Mavericks got blown out by 25 points, losing the game and the series to the 8-seed Warriors. Dirk finished the game with a mere 8 points on 2/13 shooting. The score through the first 3 quarters was 86 to 63 in favor of the Warriors. During those first three, Dirk was just 1/11 from the field with 4 points. As the MVP that year, he would also get outscored by the entire Warriors starting 5 in game 6. Throughout the whole series, Dirk would finish with under 20 points per game and 11 rebounds, while getting outscored by Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and nearly Jason Richardson as well. He was the game’s leading scorer in only one game, which was game 5.

Dirk and the Mavs were the biggest disappointment that year, and perhaps the biggest disappointment in NBA history. This is one of the NBA disappointments that often gets overlooked because they lost in the first round, while the bigger disappointments tend to get noticed if they occur in the NBA Finals. Many people won’t acknowledge this is the biggest disappointment of all time, but a 67-win team losing in the first round certainly has a strong case.

This wraps up part 2 of “The Most Disappointing Teams in NBA History.” Although through these two parts, the focus has been on the bad and/or low points of these teams’ and players’ careers, they would all bounce back sometime later. Lebron got 4 rings after the 2011 meltdown, Kobe, Steph Curry, Wade, and Bosh would all end up getting 2 more rings after their respective team disappointments, Shaq would get another in Miami in 2006, and Dirk finally got his in 2011. Furthermore, while these players and teams had their moments with championships, they’ve all had their low points, serving as perfect examples that no team or player had or will have a perfect career.