Two years ago, the SportsLifer previewed the 2008 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers with a look back at their history in championships matchups.
Well the Celtics won that series in six games, their 17th NBA title overall and first in 22 years. Paul Pierce was named Finals MVP.
Now the two clubs who have combined for more than half of all NBA championships are meeting for the 11th time, with the Celtics holding a 9-2 advantage in previous meetings.
They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.
They’re the Celtics and the Lakers. These two trademark NBA fantasies have combined for 30 championships, 16 by the Celtics.
They’ve clashed 10 times in the NBA Finals, beginning in 1959 when the Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers in four straight to start Boston’s run of eight straight titles.
The Celtics won the first eight matchups; four went the full seven games. The Lakers took the final two, the last in 1987, each in six games.
In 1962, Frank Selvy of Los Angeles had an open jumper with a chance to beat the Celtics in Game Seven. He missed and Boston won in overtime behind 30 points and 40 rebounds from Bill Russell. In that Series Laker forward Elgin Baylor scored an NBA playoff record 61 points to lift his team to a Game 5 win at the Boston Garden. However, with a chance to win the championship on their home floor, the Lakers lost Game Six, and the combatants returned to the Boston Garden for the finale.
The following year, Boston’s Bob Cousy dribbled out the clock in the final game of his historic career as the Celtics once again triumphed, this time in six games.
In 1966, the Celtics held on for a 95-93 win in Game Seven to complete their run of eight straight titles. Boston coach Red Auerbach retired after the game, with Russell assuming player-coach duties.
The Celtics won another seven-game showdown with the Lakers in 1969, although Jerry West, right, was the MVP of the Series, the only player from a losing team to win the NBA Finals MVP. West, whose 29.1 playoff scoring average ranks third to Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson, had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in Game Seven, but Boston prevailed 108-106 at the Los Angeles Forum.
Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke was already planning his victory celebration as he ordered thousands of balloons suspended from the Forum rafters.
The Celtics and Lakers resumed their rivalry 15 years later as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, right, squared off for the first time in the playoffs. And the Celtics again won in seven games, Bird averaging 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game to win MVP honors.
The next year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the Finals MVP and the Lakers finally beat Boston, 4-2, after eight straight playoff losses. And in 1987, Magic Johnson was the Finals MVP, his “junior sky hook” proving to be the turning point of the series, giving the Lakers a 3-1 lead on the way to a six-game triumph.
And they haven’t played since. The Celtics haven’t won an NBA title since 1986, The Lakers won the title again in 1988, beating the Detroit Pistons. Los Angeles last won in 2002, completing a three-peat with a sweep of the New Jersey Nets.