Record: 56-26, first place in Pacific Division
The Lakers acquired Gary Payton and Karl Malone in the off-season, giving the team two more future Hall-of-Famers to play alongside Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in what many considered the greatest starting lineup in NBA history.
The Lakers began the season 20-5 before losing Malone to a knee injury that kept him sidelined for 39 games. The Lakers won 14 of their final 17 regular-season games and seemed ready to win the NBA title that most had all-but-handed them before the season. The Lakers clinched their 18th Pacific Division title on the last day of the season with a 105-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, thanks to buzzer-beating three-pointers by Kobe Bryant, the first to send the game to overtime and the second for the win in double-overtime.
Playoffs: The Lakers cruised to the NBA Finals, but more than met its match in Detroit, which didn't seem too impressed by all the hype and defeated the Lakers in five games. Most memorable playoff moment: Derek Fisher scoring with 0.4 seconds left for a Game 5 win over San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.