Celtics-Lakers: Good for the Casual Fan, Terrible for the Rest of Us

John StebbinsCorrespondent IMay 30, 2010

BOSTON - JUNE 17:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics looks to pass over Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 17, 2008 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Lakers 131-92 to win the NBA Championship.  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 Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Another Lakers-Celtics NBA Final? Excuse me while I yawn my way to the remote.

Spare me that “Two storied franchises” line, which I heard as a kid by Brent Musburger in 1987. Yes, I know they are. I’ve seen it for years. Go ahead, show all the pictures/film of Cousy, Russell, Chamberlain, Havlicek, West, Cowens, Kareem and Magic, Bird and McHale, Worthy, Parish, Shaq and Kobe and Pierce, Allen and Garnett. My response will be “Really? After following this league my whole life, I had no freakin’ idea!” After all, I got the same history lesson two years ago.

Admittedly, one fact must remain: They did win it. They did beat all the competition - this year and in the past - to achieve this. I can’t say how much they deserve it before the mid-1980s, when I began following the game, but to call it a good thing for the casual fan is an insult to armies of hardcore fans who has sat hungry at the expense of two franchises who have feasted.

Want an interesting stat? When the Celtics ended their “agonizingly long drought” of 22 years without a ring, the average drought for the entire league was…22 years*. There’s 30 teams in the league. Fourteen of them have never held the Larry O’Brien trophy. Of those 14, 11 are over 20-years-old.. Go ahead. Sell expansion of “championship-level” basketball. Yeah. Eleven cities are still waiting, so why should your city sign up, especially if the league celebrates an NBA Finals “tradition” that doesn’t include you?

(Another stat: In the past 25 years, over $4 billion has been spent on new arenas.)

Lakers-Celtics, v. 12.0 now means that for the past 28 years, only seven teams will have won it all. After this years’ finals, that average drought number becomes almost 25 years. Logically, that would mean that fan-bases in a clear majority of the NBA have waited at least a generation for their first, maybe second title. All while the Lakers and Celtics go deeper into the teens.

If you look up my profile, I’m a Cavs' fan. And yes, I can hear it now: “This is just sour grapes about your LeBron's choke job against the Celtics.” I write this for the fans who had the “nerve” over the years to support any of the other 28 teams with the exception of Jordan’s Bulls, who took up the dynastic slack while these two “storied franchises” took the decade off championship-wise. The Cavs, anointed by Magic Johnson as the “Team of the 90’s” ran into them. My beef is more with them and Jordan’s “Shot” than The Lakers-Celtics rivalry. Besides, our drought still ranks tied for only fourth longest.

We’re tied with the Clippers, whose four decades of futility is hardly due to the Lakers or Celtics. However, we are surpassed by the 42 years the Suns‘ fans have waited. That franchise hasn’t exactly shamed the basketball world with Alvan Adams, Larry Nance, Charles Barkley, and now Amare Stoudamire. Still, 42 years. All that fan loyalty. No rings.

The most tragic is the Kings’ franchise. Their last title was in 1951 when they were the Rochester Royals. Then they moved to Cincinnati, where they didn’t even play in an NBA Finals. Then to Kansas City. Bupkiss. Then for the past 25 years, it was Sacramento, where they ran into the wall of the Lakers, just like they did when they were in Cincinnati and the Lakers were in Minneapolis. Look up the story of Maurice Stokes and wonder how that would’ve fit into the annals of the NBA if he played for Red Auerbach.

Seattle waited 29 years before the team bolted. Their Pacific Northwest neighbors, the Blazers, have waited 33 years since Rip City. The Jazz have existed 36 fruitless seasons. The Bucks last won 39 seasons ago. The Hawks, have gone over a half-century. The list goes on and on.

Since I’m not watching the series, can someone post an answer to a curiosity I have? I’m wondering how heavily, ABC will use the series to promote their “new” cop drama “Rookie Blue” and their “new” criminal forensics show “Body of Proof.” It’d only be fitting since it’s already being watched by people who don’t mind the same old thing.

* ABA titles were not included, but I only included post-merger seasons as franchises of the NBA as part of their drought.