Despite the troubling (to say the absolute least) rape allegations against Kobe Bryant, despite Shaquille O’Neal’s stated demands for a contract extension, Shaq’s clear weight issues, and the obvious and simmering tension between the two players, the Los Angeles Lakers came out of the 2003-04 regular season going great guns. Coach Phil Jackson would later write that he didn’t think his team’s early good fortune was sustainable, but the Lakers were running at 20-5 when forward Karl Malone hurt his left knee in a collision with Phoenix’s Scott Williams.
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Malone wouldn’t return for another 11 weeks, and upon his re-insertion into the Lakers starting lineup the team peeled off a 14-4 record to end the season; a 34-9 record with Malone in the starting lineup. The future Hall of Famer played terrific basketball in the postseason as well, scoring 30 points and 13 rebounds in one close-out game against Houston, before yetRead More »from Shaquille O'Neal swears he'd be 'a Laker to this day' but for Karl Malone's 2004 knee injury