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Rivals: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

Most sports rivalries stem from proximity. However, with regards to the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, this couldn’t be further than the truth.

Two teams.  Two cities.  Two totally different ways of life.  Blue collar versus White collar, and the fierce tension of Black versus White. Instead of cataloging the facts between these two teams let’s look at when their rivalry became truly legendary.

During the late-70s the NBA struggled financially due to low attendance and television ratings.  The NBA’s image to a largely white viewing audience was of “an all-black league with a bunch of guys who did drugs.” At the same time Ervin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird were entering the draft.  Already rivals from their college days they were each drafted to, (in the NBA’s opinion), “their ideal teams”.  Bird, a down-home white boy went to a city known for its colour barriers.  Magic, a razzle-dazzle smooth talking gentleman, was the perfect fit in the forward thinking culture of Tinsel town.

Boston’s team was predominantly white and L.A’s team was predominantly black; the NBA played off these factors by creating an ad campaign to fuel the fire between them.

What was born was a rivalry that divided a country.  Either you loved one or the other, there was NO in-between!  What team you supported spoke volumes about your social, political and equality status.  On the court the two teams waged war in the mid-80’s, drawing blood and trading championships.  Off the court a country was enamored with a product that was on deaths doorstep less than a decade earlier.

Fast forward to the mid 00’s.  Both teams had struggled for some time, but while Boston stayed irrelevant L.A. clawed their way back with the strength of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.  The rivalry was dormant and one-sided until 2007 when Boston pulled some of the craziest moves in basketball history by acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to help their lone super-star Paul Pierce.

From day one the rivalry was rejuvenated.  The old days had returned and Kobe Bryant and his Lakers battled the three-headed monster in Boston.  Over the last three years Boston has one title while the Lakers have won back-to-back trophies.  Last year’s final between the two will go down as one of the most intense series in sports history.  You could actually feel the ghosts of NBA past in the building.  The fans of both teams were rabid; the players of both teams made no secret of their dislike for each other.  There were hard fouls and heroic moments.  A nation was once again divided and enamored.  These two cities, both opposites, will forever be joined by the men who wear their colors.  When we are dead and gone their rivalry will remain.

Next time you are watching an NBA game ask yourself “If there were no Lakers or Celtics, would there even be an NBA?”  I think the answer is obvious.

Part 1 of my Rivals series can be found here.


  • Anonymous

    This is the rivalry, above all others, that I live for! Being a die-hard Lakers fan I must say that if you took the Celtics away I’d be pissed. Every good champ needs an equal, and these two have definitely found that in each other.

    I also love the fact you got my two favorite Lakers all angry above!

    • Anonymous

      Knew you would love this one, thanks bro.

  • Sharlene Gerontzos

    Great blog!

    • Anonymous


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Michael-Elliott/500513490 Christopher Michael Elliott

    Dog, what a fantastic blog. That was actually amazing. Every time I read one of your sports pieces I always want to re-engage in watching team sports. Awesome job as usual sir.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Chris! These rival blogs are fun because the history is so rich!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Wood/541180607 Adam Wood

    Well done Johnny, this rivalry is probably the most important one in all of NBA history (thank you Mr. Big & Mr. Johnson). I wish this was a 3 part … but it still wouldn’t be enough to capture a fraction of this everlasting opposition.


    • Anonymous

      Thanks bro, I got one coming up for you within the next couple of weeks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000583209773 Sabrina Camp

    i had no idea about this rivalry & it’s great to read about how it began.
    great blog John – one of my favourites you’ve written ;)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Sabrina!!!!
      You really need to watch the ‘Bird & Magic’ documentary. I literalyl had tears in my eyes by the end of it!
      Thanks so much for ready!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000583209773 Sabrina Camp

        jon recommended i watch it too!
        gonna have to get my a copy.

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