Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers: A Tale of Two Cities, Pt. 1

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IApril 14, 2009

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 05:  Kobe Bryant #24 of Los Angeles Lakers drives around Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics on February 5, 2009 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 110-109 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Author's Note: This will be the first of a six-part series focusing on a new feature/collaboration series of articles by Yvette and myself. We will look into the history and current state of this fantastic duel between the two cities from the courts of the NBA to the MLB diamonds.

With three articles, I'll delve into the Boston side of the rivalry.

Yvette will discuss and look into this great duel with some modern Los Angeles flavor with her three works.

Fans need not pick sides, but hey, that's what B/R is all about! Enjoy and debate! - Rob

The Red Sox versus the Angels.

The Lakers and Celtics meeting at the Staples Center.

The Kings clashing against the Bruins.

When it comes to the battle of the supremacy of two great sports cities, there's none other than Boston and Los Angeles.

For nearly fifty years, the NBA hardcourt has seen its share of epic battles between the Celtics and Lakers dynasty.

Facing off 11 times in the NBA Finals, which went by the moniker of World Championship Series until the 1985-'86 season, the C's have managed to capture nine of the highly contested all-time series.

From the LA teams of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain to the Boston teams with Bob Cousy and Bill Russel of the 1960s, these two titans have defined many moments in basketball history.

Meeting six times throughout the '60s, the Celtics and Lakers stretched their basketball wars to at least five times. Although Boston triumphed in each of those match-ups, their rivalry would intensify greatly in the 1980s.

Sure, those were the days of daisy-duke like shorts and the memorable fads of a transitional decade in America in the NBA.

But if you were to ask a hoops fan to name some of the most amazing championship finals of the sport's history, that individual may point out to the 1984, '85, and '87 series.

Diversity in all walks of life were finally making their way across the country, as the struggle that minorities faced at the time were at least getting some attention and respect at last.

Some of that was attributed by way of two legendary city rivals who traveled cross-country for the NBA title.

Almost any sports aficionado could name the faces and shakers who defined this basketball rivalry at its zenith point.

Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Magic Johnson were the faces and figures who defined these contests of the '80s.

The '84 WCS went to the limit of seven games, as each city fought tooth and nail in the previous contests that even got the fans involved in the action. With both teams trading the series advantage in nearly every game in this championship series 25 years ago, the question had to be this:

Who wanted the NBA title more?

The action on the court was hot as equally as the happenings in the stands.

After being pelted with a beer beverage by a Laker fan, Celtics guard dubbed the tense final between the two cities as an "all-out war."

Boston would get the last laugh in this amazing series, scoring a 111-102 victory over the Yellow and Purple at the "Gahden."

Fans, players, coaches, and personnel from both teams coped with the difficult conditions of the venerable Boston Garden that June, when the air-conditioning unit of the aging arena malfunctioned, causing all in the stadium to endure 95 degree plus heat.

Indiana's Larry Bird, who went by the moniker of "The Hick from French Lick," would go on to win that year's NBA WCS Most Valuable Player award. Surely, it was a one-up that Bird would give his college rival Johnson following that series.

1985 and '87 would paint different pictures and outcomes between the two cities.

The contests, competition, intensity, and tensions were still as heightened and fierce as in previous face-offs. Bird's duels with Johnson were as magnified as ever, and Boston fans continued to chant those famous verbal wishes to "Beat L.A.!"

In these last two Finals, the glory and title would finally go to Los Angeles. Jabar and Johnson would get their moment in the California sun, taking home their individual MVP honors in '85 and '87 respectively.

LA fans (and Boston fans, with some pain) would have to proclaim the '85 Finals as the most gratifying for the Lakers franchise. Sure, the Lakers won the championship on both occasions.

However, the Finals of 1985 saw Los Angeles winning the NBA title in enemy territory—none other than the Boston Garden. With inspired play by Jabbar, who averaged over 30 points in that year's championship series, the Laker legacy would be truly affirmed and announced loudly to sports fans and those Boston fans.

While the rivalry has weakened over the years in terms of the excitement and disposition between Boston and Los Angeles on the hardcourts, the 2007-08 NBA season saw a return to the 1980s when the Purple and Yellow met up with their Green and White counterparts once more in the finals.

Like the series of the 1980s, the 2008 Finals went to six games. And like those days of tube socks, Nintendo and hair spray, last year's series was reminiscent of the battles of yesteryear.

The series, which saw Boston needing a sixth game to clinch NBA glory, saw the modern day "Big Three" in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen of the Celtics sparring with their LA competitors in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.

With legendary head coach Phil Jackson leading the Laker contingency versus the likable Doc Rivers of Boston, the competition on the court was glorious and amazing as in years' past.

Offensive surges, late-game stoppers by the defense, and incredible coaching strategies to contain the marquee names in Pierce and Bryant were some of the highlights of the 2008 renewal of this particular rivalry.

Fans of the Celtics franchise (as well as this particular fan in the Philippines) would rejoice on June 17, 2008.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated days in the sports world, at least in Boston, was when the long-awaited 17th title would finally be realized. Stuck on their 16th banner since the 1986 Finals, Celtics fans had to wonder when number 17 would be won.

Following their defeat in 1987, the Celtics had to await 21 years to return to the big dance of the NBA. Their comeback into the championship rounds was enhanced by the fact that their by-coastal "villains" who had defeated them in their last two encounters for the title.

One of the most interesting footnotes to the Celtics triumph of 2007-'08 was Paul Pierce's MVP award in the Finals. Growing up as a Lakers fan from Oakland, Calif., the 31-year-old hoops veteran would accomplish his greatest individual achievement in his remarkable career — as a member of the rival Celtics.

Playing for the Celtics teams of their mediocre years of the late 1990s through early 2000s, the teasing teams of 2002-2004, and the laughingstock of the game from 2005 to '07, Pierce persevered—and "The Truth" was finally revealed in 2008 with the NBA championship and MVP honors.

With the NBA playoffs looming this coming weekend, the chances of seeing a 12th Finals between these two great cities may look good. Both teams face obstacles and challenges ahead in the upcoming rounds.

However, when June hits the calendar in the world of sports and you're tuning in to your television set come NBA Finals time, don't be surprised to see a Boston-Los Angeles match-up once more.

You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be watching for a potential series of the Battle of the Coasts.