This is part one in a series of three articles written in collaboration with Rob. My series, "One Desire, Two Legends" discusses the Los Angeles point of view of the rivalry, while Rob's series, "A Tale of Two Cities," will enlighten us with the Boston perspective.
Stay tuned for the next part of "One Desire, Two Legends" and "A Tale of Two Cities," where the Angels/Red Sox rivalry will be discussed.
Until then, go LA!
Los Angeles has always been a city to envy with its bright lights, superstars, and riveting stories.
Truth be told, Los Angeles also plays host to some of the greatest hearts in sports, displaying passion, persistence, and talent.
It’s no surprise one of the most transcendent rivalries in all of sports stems from this very scene, the heart of all the stardom.
You needn’t be a child of the ‘80s to understand the intensity the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics brought forth. With some of the greatest names known to mankind, the two teams epitomize the true spirit of competition.
And now, we are embarking on a new era of that exact rivalry, one that will be unparalleled for years to come.
We may not have a Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, or Kevin McHale to entertain us.
But we have a Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Andrew Bynum, Ray Allen, and Lamar Odom.
And while they may not be playing the same style of basketball, the dynamics of the game are equally compelling, eccentric, and prodigious.
So, while we may build upon an established enmity, it’s the future we have to look to.
Use the past as a reference for great debate, but delve into a newly anointed competition that will set precedence for the unborn athletes who will come to play in these great cities.
Last year’s finals provide a painful memory for LA fans. But with that memory come feelings of remorse, anger, and a desperate need for redemption.
But what exactly makes this rivalry so epic and prestigious?
The NBA has supported this as one of the great stories for basketball fans all over the world. With a combined total of 31 championships between the two teams (17 for the Celtics, 14 for the Lakers), making for half of the 62 championships in NBA history, one can’t help but marvel at the phenomenon these teams have created.
The year 1984 was green and white, as Bird and the Celtics defeated the Lakers 4-3, in a series that belonged to the Lakers; that is, until the pivotal game five, when Boston took advantage and dealt the Lakers a slap in the face, taking on a 3-2 lead.
The Lakers rallied back to take game six and send the series to seven.
Game seven was the Lakers' last, most grueling obstacle.
As the Lakers tortuously fought back from a 14 point deficit, the Celtics sunk a couple of three’s, leaving the Lakers to come up 11 points short of a victory, and watch as Bird was crowned the MVP of the finals, confetti falling in green and white at the Garden.
The Lakers weren’t even able to leave Boston after the game, and were forced to remain another night, sulking in the Boston victory in Boston territory.
Celtics great McHale added insult to injury by coining the term “Tragic Johnson,” creating a more intense rivalry. Unbeknownst to him, he was taking part in a rivalry that would remain through two decades, and continue on through present day.
But the Celtics weren’t satisfied. They needed to add more insult atop their insult.
Bird said, "I'd like to give them the opportunity to redeem themselves. I'm sure they have guys who feel they didn't play up to their capabilities."
True to his words, the Lakers proved Bird right.
The following year in 1985, driven by vengeance and embarrassment from the previous year, the Lakers set forth a different outcome, marked by a 4-2 win over the Celtics.
Sweetest of all, the victory was commemorated with a territorial trespass in the—one and only—Garden.
Boston would bounce back and win again in 1986, but the rivalry wouldn’t be between green and purple, but against the Houston Rockets.
However, the trade of victories would again come in 1987, as the Lakers defeated the Celtics in a 4-2 victory, this time, celebrating the win at home.
It was a series that led Bird to say, "Magic is a great, great basketball player. The best I've ever seen."
Eat your words, Bird.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Lakers fan, not a Celtics hater, but this year, I can feel the change. Grant it, I felt the transformation was in its infancy in 2000, when the Lakers began their glorious three-peat.
The embarrassment of last year’s finals resonates with LA fans. And one thing about LA fans, we don’t forget.
With the resurgence of the grand rivalry gaining strength in 2008, the Lakers and Celtics were new teams, with new faces, new wants, and new needs.
The Celtics were a team of three—talented, poised, and hungry—Pierce, Allen, and Garnett, respectively.
The Lakers were filled with talent, lacking in one particular area of expertise—experience.
The Celtics were victorious, yet again, against a becoming Lakers team.
No words will ever describe the vicious antics the Celtics unleashed in a six game series against the Lakers.
The Celtics edged out the Lakers by 39 points, a margin of victory so embarrassing, even Lakers fans had to hang their heads.
And still, we haven’t forgotten.
We haven’t forgotten the force with which Garnett played, the three-point makes by Allen, or the hovering defense by Pierce. Nor have we forgotten the sudden emergence of Rajon Rondo.
No, Boston, we have not forgotten.
To forget would mean we fail to acknowledge the great rivalry that exists between the two cities. And forgetting would also mean we let go of the fire that ignites us to play with more passion than ever.
So, while we may not forget, neither will we dwell.
But the time is now.
And now is the time for the Lakers.
Now is the time we turn “tragic” into “Magic” and regain the respect we deserve.
Now is the time we earn our anointment and reign over all other teams. Now is the time we redeem ourselves for the harrowing loss in the championship finals. Now is the time for us to show and reestablish the envy for Los Angeles.
Thank you Boston for the great strife.
It’s been real, it’s been fun. It’s been real fun.
But we’re ready for No. 15.