Russell vs. Chamberlain. Magic vs. Bird. Garnett vs. Kobe? Does that seem to fit? Or perhaps Pierce vs. Kobe? Or just the Big Three vs. Kobe? How does this Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals stack up with those of the past?
Starting with the 1969 NBA Finals, Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics were at the end of their large dynasty. On the flip side, the Los Angeles Lakers had the newly acquired Wilt Chamberlain along with Hall-of-Fame players Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
The Lakers were the heavy favorite with the younger, more athletic team, and Russell was at the tail end of his career. However, the Celtics managed to make it all the way to the finals after being seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers took the first two games at home, then the Celtics bounced back to win games three and four. The Celtics and Lakers then split games five and six, leading up to the always dramatic game seven.
A huge third quarter and a game-ending injury to Chamberlain allowed the Celtics to prevail and win the NBA Title.
The 1984 NBA Finals would be the next time the Lakers and the Celtics would meet, this time with completely different teams. The Lakers were led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and James Worthy, and the Celtics had a farm boy named Larry Bird.
Bird ended up winning MVP, and the Celtics won the NBA Finals in seven games. These two teams would meet again in the 1985 NBA Finals, this time with the Lakers winning the series in six games, and Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received MVP honors.
Then again, 1987 gave way to another Lakers-Celtics NBA Final with the Lakers winning again in six games.
Now, 21 years later, the Lakers and Celtics meet again. The Celtics are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since that 1987 defeated at the hands of the Lakers, while L.A. has been much more successful winning a few championships since then.
So with all those great players mentioned in the 1969 NBA Finals and the finals in the 1980’s, does 2008 really compare?
Kobe Bryant is this year’s MVP and is certainly a future Hall-of-Famer. Other Lakers’ players like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Derek Fisher will be remembered as great players but are not necessarily Hall-of-Famers.
On the flip side, the big three of Ray Allen, Paul Piercem and Kevin Garnett are all potential Hall-of-Famers. But with no championship to their names, they are not yet considered to be locks to enter “The Hall” like Kobe.
This is the time to shine for Boston and the Big Three. It’s time for the Celtics to revive their storied franchise, and it’s time for Garnett, Pierce, and Allen to put a cap on their great careers.
With that said, can it be done?
The Lakers are playing great basketball and have the MVP on their side. They also have head coach Phil Jackson, who is running out of fingers on which to put his championship rings.
It will be a tough task for Boston to beat L.A. in a seven-game series, but it can be done.
The Celtics do technically have the home court advantage. But if they lose one of the first two in Boston, then L.A. can win the next three games at home and take the series and the championship.
There were two things that allowed the Boston Celtics to beat the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals: Good defense on the road and Ray Allen playing like Ray Allen.
If those two things happen again in this series, the Celtics could win. But Boston also needs to control the defensive glass and not allow Gasol and Odom to give the Lakers a ton of second chances.
My personal prediction is the Lakers in five games simply because of Kobe, Phil Jackson, and the way the team is playing. But Boston certainly has the talent to get it done.
They just need to put it all together. It’s now or never.