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Reason for the Hype: Karl Malone and Gary Payton join the Lakers in pursuit of first NBA titles.
After winning three straight NBA titles, from 2000 to 2002, the Lakers fell off the championship wagon in 2003, when they were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs.
Even after failing to win their fourth straight title, with Shaq and Kobe still leading the way, the Lakers weren't going anywhere in the West, and guys like Karl Malone and Gary Payton knew that.
Payton and Malone decided that they were the talent the Lakers needed to grab another NBA title. In doing that, both of those players would also get their first rings.
With four legitimate Hall of Famers on their roster, the 2004 NBA title didn't seem that far out of reach, and the media certainly created a fair amount of hype surrounding this Lakers team.
The Lakers would cruise to an appearance in the Finals, but they were ultimately taken down by the mighty Detroit Pistons, which at the time was quite an upset.
While Payton would go on to win a title with the Miami Heat in 2006, Karl Malone's title dreams would never be fulfilled. It was truly championship or bust in L.A. in 2004, and all the hype led to a big bust.