The year is 2004. George W. Bush is re-elected, Janet Jackson accidentally makes headlines, Google goes public, and the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs both win a series in the playoffs.

On April 20, 2004, the Leafs scored three first-period goals in Game 7 of their first-round showdown versus the Ottawa Senators en route to a 4-1 victory and a ticket to the subsequent stage of the NHL Playoffs. It was the fifth time in six years that Toronto had reached the second round – it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary at the time.

Nine days later, it was Sacramento’s turn. In the final seconds of Game 5 of their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, the Kings solidified a slim 109-108 success with a last-second stop to secure supremacy in the contest and series, 4-1. The home crowd erupted at the horn, knowing Mike Bibby, Chris Weber, Peja Stojakovic, and the rest of their Kings were on their way to the Western Conference Semifinals.

Neither of these fan bases knew that they were experiencing their last taste of postseason success for many years to come. At this point, both teams have playoff-win droughts that are old enough to drive and are scheduled to graduate from high school this May, unless something were to change this month.

The Kings and Leafs are both in their respective playoffs this April, with Sacramento returning for the first time since 2006 and Toronto praying that its seven-straight postseason appearance will be the one that finally gets this monkey off its back. Neither will have especially easy initial matchups, with the Kings getting the Golden State Warriors, who have won the West in six of the last eight seasons, while the Leafs have the Tampa Bay Lightning, holders of the Prince of Wales Trophy three years running. But all things must come to an end eventually. Maybe this is it?

It’s been so long that most zoomers have zero recollection of the Kings being anything but basement dwellers and the Leafs being anything but playoff chokers. My young Millennial mind barely even remembers 2004. No smartphones and a more-limited internet meant information traveled much differently, while graphic tees, low-rise jeans, and oversized belts ruled the day – a full churn of the generational cycle has been completed since.

This is what the world was like the last time the Kings or Leafs gave their fans something to smile about in April.

The Music of 2004

Usher’s “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris was the Billboard No. 1 single of 2004, beating out another Usher track, “Burn,” and “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys for the top spot. Some other notable artists to place songs in the top 10 were Maroon 5, Outkast, Hoobastank, Ciara, and Mario Winans.

Usher’s “Confessions” was the year’s best-selling album. “American Idiot” from Green Day was second, with artists like Norah Jones, James Blunt, U2, Kelly Clarkson, Eminem, Avril Lavigne, and Gwen Stefani also releasing commercially-successful projects.

The Movies of 2004

“Shrek 2” was the giant of 2004, winning the domestic box office with a gross of more than $441 million. “Spider-Man 2,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and “The Incredibles” rounded out the rest of the top five. Some other popular movies from 2004 include “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” “National Treasure,” “The Notebook,” “Shark Tales,” and “The Polar Express.”

George W. Bush Re-Election

In November 2004, Republican and incumbent President George W. Bush defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry in the race for the White House, winning the Electoral College, 286-251, and the popular vote by approximately 3 million. Bush’s victories in the swing states of Ohio, Iowa, and New Mexico proved decisive. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and foreign policy as a whole were the dominant issues of the day, though domestic debates on the economy, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research were also on the menu.

Janet Jackson Accidentally Makes Headlines

Ever wonder why the NFL went with older, safer acts for the Super Bowl Halftime Show in the back half of the 2000s? This was why.

At the end of the concert which included a handful of the day’s biggest musical stars, such as P. Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake, and Janet Jackson performed “Rock Your Body.” When Timberlake sang his final line, “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” he tore off the material covering Jackson’s right breast, and a sun-shaped nipple shield was shown to the world for about two seconds.

The outrage over the incident was massive. Finger-pointing, television and NFL executives scrambling, and a healthy dose of misogyny commenced. Never ones to miss an opportunity to moralize, politicians got in on the panic – Congress passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 with bipartisan support.

In 2014, then-FCC chairman Michael Powell told ESPN The Magazine’s Marin Cogan that the reaction was excessive.

“I think we’ve been removed from this long enough for me to tell you that I had to put my best version of outrage on that I could put on,” Powell explained. “Part of it was surreal, right? Look, I think it was dumb to happen, and they knew the rules and were flirting with them, and my job is to enforce the rules, but, you know, really? This is what we’re gonna do?”

Google Goes Public

There was plenty of hype behind Google going public in August 2004. Its IPO of $85 per share gave the company an evaluation of $23 billion, which translates to more than $36.6 billion by 2023’s standards. The stock went up 18% on its first day and continued to shine the rest of the year. The momentum has barely slowed since.

If a person had purchased $1,000 in Google stock at IPO, that investment would be worth more than $1.1 billion today.

Martha Does the Time

In March 2004, Martha Stewart was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and lying to federal investigators, all stemming from a 2001 insider trading scandal. In July, she was sentenced to five months in prison with an additional five months of house arrest and two years of probation. She was held at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia starting in October.

Stewart’s stint behind bars didn’t affect her much. She went right back to television hosting and book publishing after her release in 2005.

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