DAR Sports: NBA Classic Rivalries- Los Angeles Lakers vs Sacramento Kings

Intro by @TrueGodImmortal 

"But I'll be sure to come back, when the Lakers beat the Kings in May"

That statement was uttered by The Rock during his "Rock Concert" on Monday Night RAW. As hilarious as it was then, it was without a doubt a very true statement. The Lakers would be involved in a vicious rivalry with the Sacramento Kings, one of which that would seemingly see the Lakers come out on top frequently. The Lakers were in their dynasty years, armed with an unstoppable team, but that one big obstacle of the Kings always stood in their way. Today, we look back at the rivalry that was the Lakers vs Kings, which truly was the feud of the Western Conference. Let's get into it.

The Lakers vs Kings rivalry in the 2000’s was something that really brought me into the intense culture of basketball. That was the first team I ever grew a dislike for because I was too young to really know about the Lakers-Celtics rivalry and the Kings were the one team that threatened the Lakers dynasty. There were a lot of classic games and moments during the rivalry like Horry’s 3 point shot to tie the series at 2(Divac called it a lucky shot) to Shaq calling the Kings “The Sacramento Queens”. No matter when these two met, there was always a hatred and dislike during that time. The rivalry was so heated that the fans didn’t like each other at all. This was the one rivalry where it came to actual fights. I mean remember Doug Christie and Rick Fox getting into that fight in the 2003 pre-season? Sacramento Kings in the 2000’s had a pretty good team and was viewed as the biggest threat to dethrone the Lakers dynasty and to win a championship. Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson, Peja Stojakavic, Vlade Divac, and Doug Christie built a solid squad for the Kings and they showed the world that they weren’t afraid of the Lakers at all. The Kings, in my mind, will always be that one team that pushed the Lakers to the brink every single game from Pre-Season, Regular season, and Playoffs. If you were to ask me what my favorite moment was from that rivalry, then it would have to be the Robert Horry shot to save the Lakers season. L.A. trailed that whole game only to storm back and put them in a position to win. It wasn’t really a designed play, but the ball managed to get tipped out to Horry, who was at the 3 point line and the rest was history. What made that shot so important was that if the Lakers would’ve lost that game, then they’re going back to Arco Arena down 3-1.

Although the Kings fell off the face of the earth after that moment and the Lakers went on to bigger and better things since then, some feelings that stemmed from the 2000’s still remain. Every Lakers/Kings game in Sacramento has that same feeling. Cowbells ringing everywhere, fans going wild, some physical play, and more. I think when we look back at that time frame it makes us appreciate those games. Other than the recent version of Lakers/Celtics, there hasn’t been a rivalry in the NBA that really catches your attention or brings that type of play anymore. Lakers/Kings in the 2000’s provided a true competitive hatred from on and off the court that we may never see again.

Tension. No better word could be used to describe this rivalry. In the history of the NBA there have been a number of intense rivalries, however none fit more perfectly for the time period than the one between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000’s. Both teams were unquestionably two of the best in the league at the time and consistently faced off in the playoffs. A rivalry stemming from sheer one-upsmanship between the two built into one of the more entertaining rivalries in the NBA.

In 2000, the Los Angeles Lakers developed into the best team in the NBA. Going into the playoffs most felt that their first round opponents, the Sacramento Kings, would be a cake walk, but that just was not the case. The Kings took LA to their limit, but their best was not enough as they would lose the series 3-2. However, momentum was slowly starting to build for them going into next year.

2001 looked to be Sacramento’s year to get revenge on the defending champions, having traded for Doug Christie. They would get swept by the Lakers in 2001.

2002 looked just as promising for Sacramento when they traded for Mike Bibby, but poised much different results. Capturing the top seed in the West, Sacramento would get their opportunity to test their skills against the two time NBA Champions once again. In one of the most memorable playoff series of all time, the Lakers and Kings would go down to the wire on numerous occasions in the series and eventually the Lakers would pull off the game 7 victory in overtime. The victory would lead to Los Angeles’ third consecutive NBA title.

Not only was this rivalry a basketball masterpiece, the stories surrounding it kept fans excited. The fight Doug Christie and Rick Fox had in the 2002 preseason showed just how intense this rivalry was. With the season about to start and no love lost between the two, especially after LA swept Sacramento in the playoffs the previous season, the potential for a fight to happen was high. What resulted from an elbow to the head from Rick Fox to Doug Christie was a brawl between the two that made it all the way to the hallways of the arena.

Other moments, such as Kobe Bryant’s 36-point game and Shaq calling Sacramento the “Sacramento Queens” just helped prove how amazing this rivalry was. While both teams may not be at the level they once were at this period with players like Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby, Robert Horry, Eddie Jones, and many others that were around at the time, fans during this era still look back on it with joy.

This is one of the greatest rivalries in NBA history and for me, the best rivalry I've seen in my lifetime. This early 2000's rivalry was perfect in every way. Physical, tough, hard fought games. Every game. Every series. The best part was that the two teams TRULY hated each other and there was no shortage of star power: the Shaq/Kobe duo was at its height, The Mike Bibby/Chris Webber connection was on fire and even the supporting cast on each team was a large piece of the rivalry, The Kings had their sharpshooter in Peja Stojakovic and the Lakers had Robert Horry. What stuck out just as much as the games were the moments that were constantly hitting us. From Shaq calling their opponent the "Sacramento Queens" to Kobe losing his damn mind in 01 and giving the Kings 48 and 16 in a game 4 clincher ON. THE. ROAD, this rivalry gave us nonstop action. It also gave us one of the biggest officiating controversies in sports with Tim Donaghy and his questionable refereeing in Game 6 in their series in the 02 playoffs. The Lakers always found a way to get over the Kings and it's a shame that the Webber/Bibby combo never came away with a ring, but their role in this legendary rivalry should never be forgotten.

Outro by @TrueGodImmortal 
-When we look back on this rivalry, all the moments, all the games, all the intensity, this is one of the last great rivalries of its kind. It is a shame that the Kings never managed to make the Finals or get a championship, but It also speaks to the dominance of the Lakers. For every dominant franchise, there was a rival that attempted to knock them off. Look at the Bulls, they had the Knicks. The Lakers had the Kings. Regardless, while the Kings would sometimes get the victory in the regular season, the playoffs would be where the Lakers shined, but it came with a high price. The road to the championship always seemed to go through the Kings for the Lakers and the Lakers were always up for the challenge, but barely. We may never see a rivalry this intense again.



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