Kings–Lakers rivalry

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Kings–Lakers rivalry
First meetingNovember 14, 1948
Royals 92, Lakers 75
Latest meetingMarch 13, 2023
Kings 120, Lakers 107
Next meetingTBA
Meetings total486
All-time series307–179 (LAL)
Regular season series281–168 (LAL)
Postseason results26–11 (LAL)
Longest win streakLAL W24 (1983–1988)
Current win streakSAC W5
Postseason history

The Kings–Lakers rivalry is a National Basketball Association (NBA) rivalry between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers. Historically, the rivalry has been very intense, with constant series in the early days in the NBA and bitterly contested playoff series in the early 2000s. They have shared a home state of California since the Kings relocated to Sacramento in 1985.


Both teams joined the BAA in 1948, which would become the NBA the following year. During the first decade of the NBA, when the Kings and Lakers were based in Rochester, New York and Minneapolis respectively (with the former then being known as the Royals), both teams played each other in the postseason five times. [1] The Lakers won five of these series and went on to win five NBA Championships in Minneapolis, while the Royals won the 1951 series and went on to win the 1951 NBA Finals, their sole NBA Championship.

The Royals would then go through various periods of futility and success, with a relocation to Cincinnati in 1957, a period of playoff appearances between 1962 and 1967 led by MVP point guard Oscar Robertson, another location to Kansas City, Missouri in 1972 (with a part-time residency in Omaha, Nebraska until 1975) with minimal playoff success (while renaming to the Kings to avoid confusion with the Kansas City Royals), and then finally relocating to Sacramento, California in 1985, where they remain today. Meanwhile, the Lakers would relocate to their present-day home of Los Angeles in 1960, winning six more championships between 1972 and 1988, largely with the Showtime team led by MVPs Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, coach Pat Riley, owner Jerry Buss, and general manager Jerry West. The Kings and Lakers had one playoff series against each other during this period in 1984 (while the Kings were still in Kansas City), with the Lakers sweeping the Kings 3-0.

In 1996, the Lakers signed future MVP Shaquille O'Neal in free agency, and traded for future MVP Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA draft. In 2000, Phil Jackson from the Chicago Bulls dynasty was hired as head coach. *Lazenby, Roland (2006). The Show: The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the Words of Those Who Lived It. New York City: McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-143034-0. Retrieved April 18, 2011. the show roland lazenby. Meanwhile, the Kings qualified for the playoffs in 1996, and would be a perennial playoff team between 1998 and 2006, becoming known as The Greatest Show On Court. The Kings were coached by Rick Adelman and led by Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojaković, Jason Williams, Bobby Jackson, among others.[2] During this time, a bitter rivalry between the teams would be renewed, facing each other in consecutive playoff series between 2000 and 2002. The Lakers would defeat the Kings in 5 games in the 2000 Western Conference First Round, while they would sweep the Kings the following year in the 2001 Semifinals en route to back-to-back championships.

2002 Western Conference Finals and season lead-up[edit]

During the 2001 offseason, the Kings traded Williams to the Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Bibby, who would create more stability at point guard.[3] That season, they would finish with the best record in the NBA at 61-21. Meanwhile, the Lakers, despite an arthritic toe from O'Neal, would finish 58-24 and claimed the third seed in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, the Kings defeated the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs to advance to the Western Conference Finals, while the Lakers would defeat the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs to face off with the Kings.

The 2002 Western Conference Finals is widely regarded as one of the best series in NBA playoff history, with the last four games coming down to the final seconds. Two games were decided on game winning shots and Game 7 was decided in overtime. However, the series was marred by controversy and allegations of corruption. On June 10, 2008, convicted NBA referee Tim Donaghy's attorney filed a court document alleging that Game 6 was fixed by two referees. The letter states that Donaghy "learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be 'company men', always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA's interest to add another game to the series." The Lakers won Game 6 106-102, attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter, and went on to win the series, and eventually the NBA championship. The document claimed that Donaghy told federal agents that in order to increase television ratings and ticket sales, "top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees". It also said that NBA officials would tell referees to not call technical fouls on certain players, and states that a referee was privately reprimanded by the league for ejecting a star player in the first quarter of a January 2000 game. Stern denied the accusations, calling Donaghy a "singing, cooperating witness".

The Lakers and Kings split the first two games in Sacramento. Los Angeles raced out to a 36-point first quarter in Game 1 behind 67% shooting and never trailed, paced by Kobe Bryant's 30 point effort and 26 points from Shaquille O'Neal. Chris Webber had 28 points and 14 rebounds, but the other Kings combined shot under 40 percent.[4] Sacramento rebounded to win Game 2, paced behind Webber (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Mike Bibby (20 points). O'Neal had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but struggled with foul trouble; Bryant shot 9-for-21 from the field and was suffering from food poisoning which he contracted from a meal at the team hotel, and some felt it was done deliberately by the hotel staff.[5] The loss snapped the NBA record 12-game playoff road winning streak for the Lakers.[6]

The Kings went to Staples Center and dominated Game 3 to regain home-court advantage, leading by as many as 27 and never trailing. They were again paced by Webber and Bibby, who combined for 50 points, and got solid contributions from Doug Christie (17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) and Vlade Divac (11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks). Other than a brief 3-point barrage in the 4th quarter by the Lakers to cut the lead to 12, there was not much help provided for O'Neal, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds.[7]

In Game 4, Sacramento again got out to a fast start with a 40-point first quarter and built a 24-point first half lead. However, the Lakers cut the lead to 14 at halftime with a Samaki Walker 3-pointer at the buzzer that should not have counted (replay was not used at the time), and to 7 after three quarters. They whittled it down to 2 on the final possession with a chance to tie or win it, but Bryant missed a running layup and Shaq missed a put-back attempt. Divac knocked the ball away from the hoop in an attempt to run out the clock, but instead it wound up going to a wide open Robert Horry behind the 3 point line, who hit the 3 over Webber at the buzzer to give the Lakers an improbable victory, which tied the series going back to Sacramento. Horry scored 11 of his 18 points in the 4th quarter, including two more crucial 3-pointers. O'Neal finished with 27 points and 18 rebounds, Bryant had 25. Divac, Webber and Bibby all finished with 20+ points for the Kings.[8]

As the series shifted back to Sacramento for Game 5, the Kings trailed almost the entire fourth quarter, but a jump shot by Bibby off a screen with 8.2 seconds left gave them the lead and was the game-winner in a 92–91 win. Bibby scored 23 in all, and Webber had 29 points and 13 rebounds in support. Bryant led Los Angeles with 30 points, but missed a potential game winner at the buzzer.[9] O'Neal had 28 points, but did not take a shot in the 4th quarter and fouled out.[10]

Game 6 is considered to be one of the most controversial games in not just NBA history, but arguably all of North American professional sports history, as numerous questionable calls went against the Kings in the fourth quarter. The Lakers, led by O'Neal's 41 points and 17 rebounds, won 106-102, setting the stage for Game 7 in Sacramento. There are allegations that the game was affected by the referees in relationship to the Tim Donaghy scandal.[11] The Lakers shot 40 free throws overall, 27 in the fourth quarter alone, and the Kings' big men were plagued with foul trouble (Divac, Webber, Scot Pollard, and Lawrence Funderburke were called for 20 fouls, with Divac and Pollard both fouling out). Webber nearly had a triple double (26 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists), Bibby scored 23, and Divac had 12 points and 12 rebounds.[12] The Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon responded to the calls in Game 6: "I wrote down in my notebook six calls that were stunningly incorrect, all against Sacramento, all in the fourth quarter when the Lakers made five baskets and 21 foul shots to hold on to their championship." For example, Wilbon pointed out that Kobe Bryant did not get a foul called on him after elbowing Mike Bibby in front of an official.[13]

Game 7 was tense, featuring 16 ties and 19 lead changes. In the final ten seconds with Los Angeles up 99–98, Peja Stojaković air-balled a wide open 3, and O'Neal was fouled on the rebound. After O'Neal hit 1 of 2 free throws, Bibby was fouled by Bryant and made both free throws to force overtime. The Kings' offense stalled in the extra period, and the Lakers prevailed 112–106. Sacramento was undone by poor free throw shooting (16–30 from the line), a horrid 2–20 from behind the arc, and a seeming unwillingness for anyone other than Bibby to take crucial shots down the stretch. O'Neal scored 35 and Bryant added 30 in the victory, as all five Lakers starters finished in double figures. Bibby finished with 29 points, and Webber finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists. Divac added 15 points and 10 rebounds.[14] To date, this is the latest postseason meeting between the two teams.


The Lakers would go on to win the 2002 NBA Finals, sweeping the New Jersey Nets and completing their three-peat. Meanwhile, in the following postseason, the Kings would lose the Western Conference Semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks after Webber tore his ACL. [15] The Lakers would also lose in the Semifinals to the Spurs, who went on to win the 2003 NBA Finals. In the 2004 NBA Playoffs, the Kings would lose in the Semifinals to the Minnesota Timberwolves in seven games, while the Lakers would lose the 2004 NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons. After playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006, the Kings would fail to qualify for the playoffs again until 2023.[16] Additionally, the Kings would be threatened with relocation between 2006 and 2013[17] before building the Golden 1 Center, moving there in 2016. [18] Meanwhile, the Lakers have since won three more championships in 2009, 2010, and 2020 being led by players like Bryant, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, bringing their championship count to 17, tied with the Boston Celtics for the most.

Despite not meeting in the postseason since the 2002 Western Conference Finals to date, bitterness between the teams remain due to the series. [19]In 2023, the two qualified for the same postseason for the first time since 2006. However, the Sacramento Kings lost to the Golden State Warriors in seven games while the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in six games, preventing a playoff series between the two.

During the 2023-2024 season, both teams advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament, but a Kings loss to the New Orleans Pelicans prevented a semifinal matchup in Las Vegas against the Lakers, who would go on to win the inaugural tournament.


  1. ^ "Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers All-Time Head-to-Head Record in the NBA".
  2. ^ Khan, Shahbaz (February 26, 2018). "Oral History: The Greatest Show on Court". NBA Media Ventures, LLC. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Lakers vs. Kings - Game Recap - May 18, 2002 - ESPN".
  5. ^ Abrams, Jonathan (7 May 2014). "All the Kings' Men".
  6. ^ "Lakers vs. Kings - Game Recap - May 20, 2002 - ESPN".
  7. ^ "Kings vs. Lakers - Game Recap - May 24, 2002 - ESPN".
  8. ^ "Kings vs. Lakers - Game Recap - May 26, 2002 - ESPN".
  9. ^ " Kings One Away from a Crowning Achievement".
  10. ^ "Lakers vs. Kings - Game Recap - May 28, 2002 - ESPN".
  11. ^ Sheridan, Chris (2008-06-11). "2002 Lakers-Kings Game 6 at heart of Donaghy allegations". Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  12. ^ "Kings vs. Lakers - Game Recap - May 31, 2002 - ESPN".
  13. ^ Wilbon, Michael (June 2, 2002). "Talk About Foul! Game 6 Was A Real Stinker". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  14. ^ " Lakers March On as Kings Can't Dethrone Dynasty". Archived from the original on 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Powell, Shaun (April 14, 2023). "As Kings' postseason drought ends, Sacramento readies for playoff bedlam". NBA Media Ventures, LLC. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  17. ^ Golliver, Ben (May 15, 2023). "NBA Board of Governors votes to reject Kings relocation to Seattle". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  18. ^ Howard-Cooper, Scott (October 28, 2016). "Kings open Golden 1 Center, eye potential All-Star bid in 2020". NBA Media Ventures, LLC. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  19. ^ "The history that caused the beef between Kings-Lakers fans". 24 March 2019.