The NBA just got interesting again. The season starts in October when football is in full swing and we forget about it for the next three months while we’re watching the NFL playoffs.
We notice again in February but within a few weeks March Madness, (college basketball’s edition of the Super Bowl), is upon us and the NBA gets put on the back burner again.
An NCAA champ is crowned and again we pay attention to see who made the NBA playoffs. But the baseball season opens in early April and honestly aren’t we more interested in the Dodgers than anything basketball has to offer.
The playoffs begin but for the most part they’re a bore. How many times do we have to see the Atlanta Hawks get knocked out of the post season before we change the channel? The Utah Jazz always make the playoffs but they also always get eliminated. It gets old after awhile.
This year the LeBron James story was intriguing. How far could he take the Cavaliers? Can he single handedly lead Cleveland to a championship? But once the Cavs got knocked out, it was forgotten. It was back to the Dodgers and for our friends in the OC – the Angels.
However when the Lakers officially bounced the Phoenix Suns last Saturday night, the NBA became relevant again. Yes it definitely regained our attention.
It became interesting not because the Lakers had made it to the NBA Finals, but because the Lakers will be playing the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Lakers-Celtics is a rivalry like no other – especially on the professional level.
It’s the glitz and glamour of LA against the grit and grind of Boston. It’s Red Auerbach and an aged dilapidated Boston Garden against Jack Kent Cooke and the Fabulous Forum. It’s Bill Russell against Wilt Chamberlain and John Havlicek against Jerry West.
It’s a Don Nelson lucky game winning bounce against a Magic Johnson game winning baby sky hook.
It’s the great Larry Bird scowling as he cans another jumper and his nemesis Johnson throwing a no look bullet pass to wide open teammate for a basket.
It’s Kevin McHale clothes lining Kurt Rambis and M.L. Carr waving a towel over his head in celebration. It’s also Michael Cooper burying a three and pointing at the Celtic bench and Johnson throwing down a dunk that prompted announcer and noted Boston homer Tommy Heinsohn to say at the time that Magic was telling the Celtics “You are done man!” as he jammed it through the hoop.
There’s respect but also a distinct dislike for each other. It’s the Yankees – Red Sox in short pants. Except when these two hook up it’s for all the marbles.
The Lakers and Celtics have won a combined 32 championships between them with Boston winning 17 of them. They’ve met 11 times in the Finals and it’s usually the Celtics who walk off happy.
Boston has won 9 of the 11 meetings. The Lakers didn’t beat Boston for the first time until 1985. They should have won the ’84 series but a nightmare named Gerald Henderson got in the way.
The last time these two met was a forgettable one for the Lakers. They were humiliated by 39 points in series clinching win in Boston in 2008.
Talk about humiliating. Did you know that Cooke decorated the Forum rafters with balloons before a game seven with Boston in 1969 to be released in celebration once the Lakers won? There was only one problem. The Lakers lost. Laker fans to this day still rue the thought of Auerbach lighting up and smirking as the Celtics partied.
So for the next two weeks, sit back and settle in. It’s Lakers- Celtics and it doesn’t get any better. We’ve been waiting for this since October. The NBA matters again.
I like the Lakers in seven. Forgive me if I don’t blow up any victory balloons before the last game is played.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.