It's no secret that the greatest rivalry in NBA history is that which exists between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Starting in 1959, both teams have met in the NBA Finals a dozen times, with Boston holding a 9-3 edge. However, in recent years, there's a new rivalry brewing in Beantown, and the opponent lives a lot closer to Boston.
You see, the Celtics and Miami Heat have crossed paths in the playoffs every year since 2010. That was the year before LeBron James and Chris Bosh chose to take their talents to South Beach, and the Celtics won the series in five games en route to reaching the NBA Finals and losing to, of all teams, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Once James and Bosh were in Miami, however, the Heat's fortunes changed.
In 2011, Miami faced Boston in the Conference Semis and won in five games. Last season, they faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals and Miami won in the deciding seventh game.
The two teams even played each other to open the season this year, with Miami winning 120-107. Afterward, the Celtics had some choice words for the supposedly "dirty" Heat, with Miami also throwing some fuel on the fire.
That being said, move over, Lakers. You're no longer the most-hated team in Boston. With two recent playoff battles against Miami's Big Three, and intense battles at that, the Celtics are going to use their hatred of their new rival to reestablish themselves as the Kings of the Eastern Conference.
Look at it this way. Regardless of how much Boston's new rivalry with Miami grows, it isn't going to be able to top the one they have with the Lakers. Celtics-Lakers featured two of the greatest player rivalries in league history, Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell and Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson, and there's nothing that can take that away from anyone on either side.
Thus, consider how long the rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers has been going on. At this point, it's been going on long enough that while the teams may "hate" each other whenever they face off in the NBA Finals, they still respect each other at the end of the day.
Miami, however, doesn't get such a courtesy. While the Lakers are in the Western Conference and Boston only has to play them twice during the regular season, Miami is a conference rival and Boston must face them four times. There's a lot more riding on those games and could have a great impact on where the Celtics finish in the conference standings.
More importantly, the Celtics don't face the Lakers in the postseason unless they're both in the NBA Finals, whereas they must play Miami just to GET that far. If there's any team that should be hated in Boston, it's Miami for robbing the Celtics of potential championships for the past two years.
Therefore, when push comes to shove, the Celtics and their fans have plenty of more reasons to hate the Miami Heat than they do the Los Angeles Lakers. While one rival can only cause hurt in one circumstance, the other can start the beatdown consistently throughout the regular season, whether the Celtics are facing them or not.
Given the fireworks that happened in their first game against each other this season, it seems as though the REAL rivalry between both teams is only just beginning and we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much hatred there really is.