The very deep Portland Trail Blazers came extremely close to beating the Kobe-Shaq Los Angeles Lakers in game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. They were up 15 in the fourth! Buttttt LA went on a 15-0 run and won.
Still, the Blazers were poised for a bright future, expected to be a serious western threat, to keep putting up a fight with the Lakers. Their near finals berth could have been the first stone on the path to a dominant future.
But of course, the loss and failure to make it to the finals could be the first stone on a totally different path – one paved with drug arrests, intra-team violence, and a middling record that belied the promise the team once held: