The Los Angeles Lakers didn't win the most games over the last 10-year period. They just won the right games -- the biggest games -- and regained their place as the NBA's Team of the Decade.
They started 2000 by winning three consecutive championships, beating Indiana, Philadelphia and New Jersey, respectively, at the NBA Finals.
They finished the decade by winning another title, this time over Orlando, ending all reasonable debate over which franchise deserved the honor.
They also reached the Finals in 2004, losing to the Detroit Pistons, and in 2008, losing to the rebuilt Boston Celtics. No one can match what they did, retooling faster than anyone thought possible after losing Shaquille O'Neal.
The Lakers won 530 regular season games during the 10-year period, trailing both the San Antonio Spurs (576) and even the title-less Dallas Mavericks (548). But they won when it counted.
The Spurs, riding the Tim Duncan wave, were the most consistent team of the decade, never winning fewer than 53 games in a season and never missing the playoffs. By comparison, the Lakers took the roller-coaster route, falling below that 50-win mark four times -- even missed the playoffs once when they won just 34 -- yet they rebounded back to the top like they were on a springboard.
If the two franchises had tied at three titles apiece, the Spurs might have had a decent argument. But the fourth for the Lakers was far too convincing. And while the Spurs now are fading rapidly as the next decade approached, the Lakers still are building momentum.
"This is a team that could be in position to be playing here in the Finals for the next three, four, five years,'' said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak shortly after winning the last title in Orlando. "That doesn't mean it's going to be here, or mean it's going to win here, but the talent is young enough and good enough to do it."
The Lakers led the Spurs in playoff victories, 98-83.
The Spurs won three NBA titles, but it was the Lakers who foiled their bid for more, beating them three times on the Western Conference side of the playoffs. The Lakers-Spurs rivalry was intense throughout the decade. Only once, when the Mavericks reached the Finals and lost in 2006, did anyone else represent the West on the NBA's largest stage.
The Eastern Conference, which dominated the '90s, was a patchwork collection of contenders, sending eight different teams to the NBA Finals, which was won seven times by either the Lakers or the Spurs.
This was the second time in the last 30 years that the Lakers have been overwhelming picks for Team of the Decade. Their domination was sandwiched around Michael Jordan and the Bulls, who won six NBA titles in the '90s. The Lakers won five titles in the '80s.
Before them, the Lakers and Celtics split the '70s with two titles apiece, and the Boston Celtics won a miraculous nine titles in the '60s.
Although Coach Phil Jackson and point guard Derek Fisher were part of all four NBA championships for the Lakers, only Kobe Bryant was part of every season along the way.
The fourth title for Bryant became his most satisfying, refuting the belief that he couldn't carry a team without O'Neal to ride. But he proved everyone wrong, bringing the Lakers back to where they always seem to be – on top of the NBA.