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How to Save Lakers-Celtics Rivalry from Extinction

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IMarch 9, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 30:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics and Ron Artest #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers fight for position in the second half at Staples Center on January 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Celtics defeated the Lakers 109-96.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

When you think about NBA rivalries, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics should immediately be the first thing that pops into your mind.

Every other sport has its share of real rivalries, a range of heated competition from MLB's Yankees vs. Red Sox to NCAA basketball's Duke vs. North Carolina and everything in between.

Except in the NBA, where you really have only Lakers vs. Celtics.

The sad part is that the rivalry that dates back to 1960s is slowly dying, season by season.

It's hard to maintain a real good rivalry these days, especially with the salary cap involved and players not able to mostly stay with one franchise anymore.

Then you have to look at the talent level on both teams.

Sure, the superstars are still there, but the two storied franchises are onlyΒ a combined nine games over the .500 mark.

The games between the two just don't mean much, but for the rivalry to stay relevant, they are going to have to have some meaning sometime soon.

Both teams could stand to get younger and more talented, but does the young generation of players really understand what the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry really means?

It's not very likely.

The only way the Lakers and Celtics play meaningful games if it's in the NBA Finals.

In 2008 and 2010, the two met in the finals, but that was the first time we've seen Lakers vs. Celtics for the richest prize in the sport since 1987.

It's hard to predict, though, who will make the NBA Finals from year to year, and counting on that to sustain a rivalry isn't the likely way to go.

What this rivalry needs is some true bad blood between the teams.

Since they only meet twice during the regular season, they need something big to create the tension, but that's the type of bad blood that's needed here.

I'm talking Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens type of bad blood.

Who knows how to get that? But it's needed.

Kobe Bryant in a Celtics uniform? Not that I'm suggesting that would happen, but that could do the trick. Rajon Rondo in a Lakers uniform? Who knows, but something has to be done to extend this rivalry.

All it eventually may take is some hard fouls and some fantastic finishes, but the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry is one that can't die.

It's the only real rivalry the NBA has.

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