Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone: That legendary Hall of Fame foursome comprised the core of the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers, a team that nearly lived up to the hype.
In what would be Malone's final attempt at hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the Lakers simply couldn't get past a rough-and-tumble Detroit Pistons squad in the NBA Finals.
A 56-26 regular season paved the way for the Lakers to capture the West's No. 2 seed, and they made quick work of all three Western Conference opponents before doing battle with the Pistons.
The Lakers lost just five games combined to the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves, but it was the Pistons who dispatched the LA, putting to rest any hopes of a fourth title in five years for Bryant and O'Neal.
All four of the Lakers' legendary contributors averaged more than 13 points during the 2003-04 campaign, and Bryant led the way with 24 a night on 43.8 percent shooting. Shaq remained his normal dominant self, posting 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over the course of 67 games.
Malone, who only appeared in 42 games during his final go-around at age 40, averaged a very respectable 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds while recording a PER of 17.8.