The differences were nearly poetic. One was a team of stars, superstars, and megastars in a city of glitz and glamor. The other, a functional unit with a defensive tenacity reflecting its namesake. In the end, the cohesive team defeated the shining stars. The supernova began just days later.
Coach Phil Jackson, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to three NBA titles, told reporters the day after the final loss to the Detroit Pistons that he would leave the team. Two days later, Shaquille O'Neal demanded a trade. The team also traded all-star guard Gary Payton, and future Hall of Famer Karl Malone retired. That left the Lakers with tainted star Kobe Bryant and pieces acquired from trades. The Pistons, on the other hand, resigned Rasheed Wallace and preserved their nucleus. The Detroit Pistons hung together. The Los Angeles Lakers hung separately.