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Mike Bibby firmly believes that his Sacramento Kings squad in the 2001-2002 season stood up as the best team in the world amid painful circumstances that took place.

In his appearance on the Games With Names podcast, Bibby went real by noting that the Kings were poised to win it all that season if only they were able to survive against the Los Angeles Lakers in their bloody Conference Finals war.

“We were the best team in the league, hands down. I think the Lakers knew it, the league knew it and everybody in the world knew it.  It shouldn’t have went to game 7 and it’s unfortunate we shit the bed in game 7.  But we thought we’d have another chance the next year but injuries hit us.” 

Winning 61 games that year, the blazing Sacramento troop steamrolled within the postseason arena as a feared title powerhouse team being bannered by Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, and Bibby.

In the first two rounds, the Kings walloped away both the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks via gentleman’s sweep, setting up a heavyweight meeting with then-reigning back-to-back champion Lakers for a marquee Western Conference Finals clash.

Both the Kings and the Lakers went toe-to-toe on the dramatic series, but the former had a visible edge in their tight matchup. It was in Game 6, within the Staples Center, with the Kings holding 3-2, situations went lopsided with speculations and controversy storming around the league due to questionable calls of the officials.

Eventually, the series reached the do-or-die Game 7, with both basketball titans trading blows until the end of regulation. The unwanted premature exit of Divac due to being fouled out allowed Shaquille O’Neal to capitalize on his domination of the paint.

As overtime reached the clock, Los Angeles managed to steer themselves away from cold-handed Sacramento in crunch time behind the 10-combined points of Derek Fisher and O’Neal in the extra frame. The Lakers went on to walk out with a win in the grinding encounter and proceeded to clinch their three-peat crown after easily dusting off the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals via sweep.

The downfall of the Kings in that supposed-to-be title year can only extend unfortunate events that haunted their chances to win a title. In 2003, they were poised to finally get over the hump, but the career-threatening ACL injury of Webber in the second round of the said season’s playoffs ultimately shattered their hopes for a championship run. 

Though they still appeared in the postseason arena for the next three seasons, the window of the era to potentially reach the pinnacle went on to be closed. Since then, the early-to-mid 2000s exploits by the Kings have been widely considered one of the most tragic timelines by a team in NBA history.

Sacramento and its fans have dwelled around the basketball purgatory since 2006, but they have a clear chance this season to finally take themselves away from mediocrity and feel the playoff atmosphere for the first time in 17 years. 

As currently the third seed, the Kings are looking to maintain that grasp of their position atop the Western Conference standings with a 25-18 record.