The 2004 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Pistons are known as the end of the Lakers’ dominance at the start of the century and the end of the Kobe & Shaq era. But it was also a personal battle for Pistons shooting guard Rip Hamilton.
Rivals from high school days
Rip, and Kobe were rivals from their earlier days, playing against each other in AAU, battling for the high school state championship, which Kobe won, to playing in the NBA Finals. On the ‘Real Ones’ podcast with Raja Bell and Logan Murdock, Rip Hamilton discussed what it was like to play against Kobe Bryant in the 2004 NBA Finals and why he had to win that battle.
“I couldn’t allow Kobe to beat me again,” he ">said. “He beat for the state championship in Pennsylvania. It was almost got to a point where I was walking to the locker room, looking at Ben. Rasheed, Chauncey, and I’m like, ‘Bro I can’t let this dude beat me again’.”
After Kobe got a few NBA championships, Rip had to get some of his own, and in 2004 he had a perfect opportunity precisely against Kobe and the Lakers. Rip believes the Pistons were by far the best team in the NBA at the time, especially after getting Rasheed Wallace to complete that starting five, and himself and Chauncey Billups being the best backcourt in the NBA, in his opinion.
Huge personal win for Rip
He would end up being right, as the Pistons surprised everybody but themselves, winning it pretty quickly in 5 games with Billups winning Finals MVP. Hamilton had a great series, leading the Pistons in scoring with 21.4 points per game, while Kobe, on the other end, wasn’t too bad, averaging 22.4 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to pull it out.
"When you say who had the best two players, absolutely the Lakers, I mean they had Shaq and Kobe, arguably two guys who in my opinion should be in the top five greatest players of all time. But for that moment, we were feeling good. We had this me against the world attitude, we were locked in, and willing to do anything for each other. We never went into that series thinking that the Lakers were the better team.”
Rip Hamilton, ">Real Ones
It was a huge personal win for Rip Hamilton, getting a big one over his biggest rival. Even though his career wasn’t nearly as glorious as Kobe’s, he was still a very dangerous player. And even though they were opponents and fierce competitors, they both had a lot of respect for each other.