A Rivalry That Spans Generations…

Darius Soriano —  June 2, 2010

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This post originally ran in the lead up to the 2008 Finals.  Gatinho, our long time FB&G contributor and resident Lakers historian has updated his original piece to reflect the 2010 match up.  A special thanks to him for putting this post together and getting us ready for the rematch we’ve all been waiting for.

It’s the late 50’s and a pattern begins. It involves an emerging professional basketball league, and a team that is about to drag it out of the smoky arenas and into the consciousness of the American sports fan. It involves a team that will draw attention to the new league by its singular and, in retrospect, ridiculously one-sided dominance. 11 banners in 13 years. 8 championships in a row.

In our modern sports lexicon, we carelessly bandy about the word “Dynasty”. If 3 in a row or four in a decade is considered a dynasty, then those early Celtics were an uber-dynasty.

As the ’50’s turn into the ’60’s, and Bob Short moves his Minneapolis Lakers west, another piece of that pattern becomes painfully evident for the Los Angelinos who filled the seats of new owner Jack Kent Cooke’s Fabulous Forum.

As much it is hard to imagine a franchise dominating for an entire decade, it’s even harder to imagine that every year they would be vanquishing the same team.

“I still see green people,” Jerry West said in a recent interview on the Dan Patrick Show. “It definitely left me emotionally scarred.”

The Lakers and Celtics would meet in the finals from 1961 to 1969. They would push the Celtics to 7 games three times, but never get their hands on the trophy.

And the Celtics would do it with the same “Seven master plays” of Red Auerbach. With future Hall of Famers filling the Celtic’s and Laker’s roster, the short answer for this dominance is answered in two words: Bill Russell.

But what about Wilt? There’s a simple answer there as well. Wilt intimidated everyone and dominated all comers…all except Russell.

West and Elgin Baylor would take turns filling the bucket, scoring 60 plus, hitting half court shots to send games into overtime, but to no avail.

Frank Selvy is a name few Laker fans may recognize in 2008, but he was the goat of ’62. If he hits a wide open jumper in that game 7 in ’62 at the end of regulation in the Garden… but he doesn’t. And teammate “Hot Rod” Hundley consoles him in the locker room with,

“Don’t worry. You only cost us $30,000 dollars. (their playoff share). You b*stard.”

They would push Havlicek and crew to 7 games again in ’66 only to have Russell score 25 points and pull down 32 rebounds in the pivotal game.

Until ’69…

This would be the Laker’s year. They finally had the home court advantage. Jack Kent Cooke would have the USC band there to play “Happy Days Are Here Again” and balloons would drift down from the rafters of the Forum.

Russell would look up into those rafters and see those balloons and, as the mythology goes, say…

“Those balloons are going to stay up there a hell of a long time.”

And so they did.

But Russell would retire, and Baylor would as well. Leaving West and Chamberlain to lead the team to their first ‘chip in L.A. It would do little to satiate West after so many years of Garden-variety abuse.

Mr. Clutch’s sole ring would come against the Knicks, and he would be coached by a Celtic legend, Bill Sharman.

Bill Sharman, A Celtic player with 3 rings would be the architect of the first Los Angeles team to win it all, and use Auerbach’s blueprint by convincing Chamberlain to imitate Russell: focusing him on playing defense, rebounding, and throwing the outlet pass to start the break.

As the Lakers scuffled through the ‘rest of the70’s after West’s retirement, Auerbach would retool with his ability to flummox other owners on a regular basis for their best players, and utilize his uncanny knack for drafting players late who would turn into the key cogs of a team that would capture two more titles in the 70’s.

If you’re keeping score, that’s 13 to 1.

A Small Amount of Redemption

It’s 1979, and the rivalry that would save the the waning and increasingly NBA, is in its nascent stages.

Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team is man handling Larry Bird’s Sycamores.

Auerbach, in another one of his savvy thinking ahead of the curve moves, drafted Bird when he was a junior using a loophole.

“…a player who expressed interest in entering the draft early could return to college even after being selected.”

Auerbach’s unsurpassed shrewdness would surface again when he traded the first pick of the draft, Joe Berry Carrol, to the Golden State Warriors for the third pick, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish.

The rivalry is set when prospective owner Jerry Buss tells outgoing owner Jack Kent Cooke that if he picked Sidney Moncrief with the number one pick, the deal was off.

The Lakers would add their second banner in Magic’s rookie season.

The Bird led Celtics would garner their first title by defeating the Rockets in 1981.

As Bird, McHale, and Parrish would gel, Showtime would begin its extended run…

Head to Head Once Again

1984 would be the first time that the two teams would meet since the crushing loss of ’69. The Lakers would play the Celtics close but reminiscent of the 7 game losses of the ’60’s, a handful of plays down the stretch would decide the outcome. A too slow cross court pass by Worthy that Gerald Henderson stole in Game 2. A clothesline of Rambis by McHale after Bird referred to his teammates as “sissies”.

In defeat, missed free throws and turnovers by Magic would grab the spotlight. The sports writers pounced and questioned the moxie of Johnson. Sure he was great player, but he had crumbled down the stretch in the crucial moments.

“…take a last look at one thing the series settled: Earvin (Magic) Johnson, L.A.’s superstar guard, simply is not a clutch player…When the very biggest games get to be their very closest, is Magic’s unreliability chronic? Show us it ain’t so, Earvin.”

The Die Hard Garden Curse

In 1985, the two 60 plus clubs would clash again, the Celtics looking to be the first team to repeat since the Russell-Cousy teams. The Lakers would look to wash away the pain of ’84. The Celtics would have home court advantage and would throw the first punch.

It was a hay maker that has been ensconced in the psyche of Laker fans as the Memorial Day Massacre. Celtics 148-Lakers 114. Kareem would score 12 points and collect 3 rebounds. He would apologize to his teammates and promise that he would never play like that again. The loss was surprisingly just what the Lakers needed.

Kareem would redeem himself, averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and two blocks in the four Laker wins.

“Abdul-Jabbar was old enough to invoke the most felicitous analogy. “It’s like the Dodgers beating the Yankees in 1955,” he said. “Celtic pride was in this building, but so were we.”

It is still the one and only time that an opposing team has claimed a championship on the Celtic’s home floor, and the smile that would adorn the mug of the normally stoic Captain would tell the whole story.

The demons and jinxes of 8 straight years of losses could not be squashed with one win, but it was a small amount of redemption for both the current and past Lakers.

But even that would be short-lived. The Lakers would be shocked the following year by the Houston Rocket’s Ralph Sampson’s desperation heave and the Celtics would again capture the title.

Junior Junior Sky Hook

1987 would be the final match up between the Bird-Magic incarnation of the rivalry. The Lakers would hold home court advantage and snatch the first two games in LA. But the defining moment of the series would come in Game 4.

The Celtics had let a 16 point lead slip away, and the Lakers found themselves with the ball and a chance to win. The play was called for Kareem, but McHale would switch out onto Magic away from the basket. And Chick would capture the moment as only he could…

“Magic down the middle, just like I thought. A hook shot of 12. It’s goood.”

The Laker struggles of the 90’s would lead to a return to prominence in 2000, as the Celtics would struggle, attempting to recover from the tragic death of Number One draft choice Len Bias less than 48 hours after he was picked.

Here We Are Again

Looking for redemption. A modern vindication the likes we haven’t seen since ’85.

For some it evokes memories of Sunday afternoons, and the rivalry that would galvanize our love for the Lakers and basketball.

For some it will remind them of the long ago pain of 8 straight losses.

This match up has now passed the Yankees and Dodgers for the most times professional franchises have faced each other in a final.

How much does it effect the current series?

Lakers 15
Celtics 17

Ask any Celtic fan, and they would tell you they were dying to return to relevance. After winning 16 rings in 30 years, they hadn’t been to the Finals in two decades. This mini-dynasty will solidify their prominence by having it span eras.

Ask any Laker fan, and they will tell the consistency and titles are just too much to argue against. The ghosts of those long ago losses fading into ancient history.

Because a good rivalry with a storied history adds excitement to a game.

Simply put, familiarity breeds contempt.

-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho

Roland Lazenby’s “The Show”, “My Life” by Earvin Magic Johnson, “24 Seconds to Shoot” by Leonrad Koppett, and The SI.com vault were used in the writing of this post.

Darius Soriano

Posts

50 responses to A Rivalry That Spans Generations…

  1. Phil Jackson’s ability to turn malcontents into champions makes him the greatest
    by Mike Wise

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/01/AR2010060103649.html?hpid=artslot

  2. Two things:
    1) Butch VanBrettacoff – the Laker’s coach in 1969 – never did get along with Wilt Chamberlain. This was to have an impact on the final game of the series.
    2) Wilt was able to statistically dominate Russell, but he was only able to overcome Bill’s supporting cast once, in 1967, with his own all-star cast. This just proves the truism that a single player cannot win a team game – a la Kobe Bryant in 2005-2007.

  3. I believe in the power of visualization, so I’m spending a lot of time picturing Bill Russell’s facial expression as he is forced, once again, to hand over the Finals MVP trophy to Kobe Bryant. In Boston.

  4. Brough over from last post:
    Couldn’t sleep last night like a (rich) kid on christmas eve. I just gotta get this game 1 out of my system. I think this is the most important game 1 of all time! Seeing PJ’s 47-0 record when ahead 1-0 in a series makes the seconds feel like minutes until this game starts.

    If I here or read one more thing talking about 6ft 1in Rajon Rondo, stopping Kobe Bryant, (who kills short defenders with mid range pull ups) I swear I’m gonna make someones ugly green jersey look like an away bulls jersey. The only guys I will give respect to defending Kobe in this series will be Tony Allen and Paul Pierce, who probably won’t do anything Hill, Richardson, Sefilosha, and Durant haven’t already tried.

    Lastly, Abbot over at ESPN keenly stated how Lakers have such a problem with talented point guards and how Rondo may be a nightmare for us… Let’s see, didn’t we sweep the team with the best pg in the league (Deron Williams.) Didn’t we just take out a team with a future HOF point guard and very talented backup. Not to mention Westbrook, who is arguably the fastest point guard in the league. Very keen insight Abbot, that’s why these guys get the big bucks.

  5. Nice historical wrapup. But somehow, the fact that this is clearly Good vs Evil was omitted.

  6. What I wouldn’t give to see the Lakers win the title on Boston’s floor again. In 5. Against this particularly villainous Beantown version.

  7. The biggest green villains patrolled Boston in the 60’s. These guys are cream puffs by comparison.

  8. Looking for redemption. A modern vindication the likes we haven’t seen since ‘85.
    __

    I sent a text to young Laker fan friend saying that this is “1985 for you young folks.” I was a teenager in 1985; I remember the whole thing very well.

    2010 combines elements of 1969 (before my time) and 1985. As I have said: I think this may be the most emotional series in the history of the Lakers’ franchise for the fans.

  9. Craig,

    I believe Wilt asked for a blow at the end of that game 7 and when he asked to re-enter, Van Bretta Koof told him to sit back down…

  10. “If you’re keeping score, that’s 13 to 1.”

    I’m surprised that this post wouldn’t count the 1950s Lakers rings.

    The Minneapolis Lakers would win 5 championships when George Mikan would be its leader and star.

    It wouldn’t be a gimmick thing like, say, the Thunder (different ownership would move Sonics to a different city). It would be the same owner that would move his team west, and the team would have the same powerful franchise player, Elgin Baylor, on the team, when it would move. So there would be continuity in 1960. Heck that move would be at the same time as the Celtic dynasty years would be occurring.

    I guess you would count it later when you would present the title count as
    Celtics 17, Lakers 15.

    Celtic and Lakers championships would win championships in every decade of the League (only technically / barely in the 90s).

  11. Someone asked me how I felt about this series. The guy is a Batman fan, so I told him:

    It is like being Alfred Pennyworth. Batman has just taken out Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and the Riddler, and you’re thinking that Batman’s next battle would be against either Bane or Croc.

    But then the news arrives: The Joker has escaped from Arkham Asylum again. He ambushed Bane and dumped him in the Gotham City reservoir, and then he found Croc and injected him with nerve gas.

    And now the Joker is on his way to downtown Gotham.

  12. Gatinho,
    Yes, but it was more complicated than that and the entire season was a precursor to what went on. Besides, when you leave Mel Counts (I went to college with him at Oregon State) on the court and refuse to put Wilt Chamberlain in to replace him in a closeout game, you border on the monumentally stupid or ego impaired.

    You have to remember Wilt Chamberlain averaged more minutes per game than any modern player and this was his 11 year in professional ball – at a time when center play was extremely physical.

  13. The game was quite different in the 60’s, when the Celtics won most of their titles – actually the 60’s were quite different from the 50’s, when the Lakers won five of their titles.

    I think modern comparisons should start with the Magic-Bird era and come forward. Before that both exposure and the game had a different flavor. For people like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, and fans like me, it is impossible to separate out the 60’s. However, most fans today really can’t relate to that era of the game.

  14. @12,

    The 4th qtr of Game 7 of the 1969 Finals is on you tube, in its entirety, with both good quality sound and picture.

    It is very interesting to watch for those interested in such things.

    Just type “1969 NBA Finals Game 7″ on to the you tube search bar.

  15. Great, great, GREAT post Gatinho.

    But let me consider one thing, because I don’t like the historical story about “Lakers struggling vs. C*ltics in the finals”. I think there’s some myth about it, because they didn’t struggle, they lost against a better team, and that’s all.

    C*ltics were the best team from 1957 to 1969, period (11 rings in 13 years).

    They won 716 games in the regular season thru those years (.705) and the 2nd team was Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers (600 wins / .591). They were in Syracuse until 1962/63, then moved to Phila.

    ¿Lakers? they were 4th -behind St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks- with 533 wins and .525 (until 1960 in Minneapolis).

    So, they made big efforts to go to the finals, but -with the 1969 exception- they always were the underdogs…

    They lost in 1969 looking like a team playing against there ghosts, but in the other finals they lost against a better team (look at the difference in the regular season wins):

    1959: B*ston 52- Lakers 33 (-19)
    1962: B*ston 60- Lakers 54 (-6)
    1963: B*ston 58- Lakers 53 (-5)
    1965: B*ston 62- Lakers 49 (-13)
    1966: B*ston 54- Lakers 45 (-9)
    1968: B*ston 54- Lakers 52 (-2)
    1969: B*ston 48- Lakers 55 (+7)

    In 1966, 67 & 68 the Nº 1 team was Philadelphia 76ers (55, 62 & 62 wins) and in 1969 Baltimore Bullets were the top team with 57.

    In “modern” history:

    1984: B*ston 62- Lakers 54 (-8)
    1985: Lakers 62- B*ston 63 (-1)
    1987: Lakers 65- B*ston 59 (+6)

    2008: B*ston 66- Lakers 57 (-9)

    So, we beat them like an underdog in 1985 (and in the Garden)… Just like them in 1969.

    And… ¿what about the other years? ¿where were them? Ha

  16. robinred,
    Thanks, I bookmarked it.

  17. To say that I’m both nervous and excited is an understatement. You just don’t know when you’ll get another chance to beat your longtime rival. I’m sure that Kobe would love to help lead us to another banner – this time at the expense of the Cs. Let’s be honest, this matchup probably won’t happen again with these two teams for one simple reason – other than Rondo, Boston’s key players are all on the decline. That’s not to say they can’t play well in the playoffs with multiple days off (they’ve done so very well this year), but the regular season grind will continue to wear on them and eventually they won’t be able to win multiple rounds on the road. Now, if they were to win it all this year, maybe it entices some young free agent to help bolster their aging core for a few more years.

    I am so worried about game 1 it’s not even funny. If we hold serve and win games 1-2, I feel we can use our moxie to get at least one win in Beantown, but going east knotted at 1-1 or worse, down 0-2, puts our chances in perilous danger. If I were Phil (and I’m not), I think I pull a page from the Riley book of coaching and have a film session early tomorrow and turn off all the lights, crank up the sound and watch the painful entirety of game 6 in 2008. No comments, no spiritual talks, just a rough reminder that if you don’t commit yourself 100%, it won’t happen. And then follow this with the 4th quarters of our wins in Boston from last year and this year as reminders of what is possible.

    Let’s go Lakers!

    PS – I’m not sure about everyone, but this series has been a great way for me to pass along the passion of the Lakers/Celtics series to my 8 year old son. He didn’t fully understand why a tear crept out of my eyes at the end of the ’08 Finals. He does now. We are all really blessed to be a part of such a sacred rivalry. Here’s hoping there are only tears of joy after this year’s Finals.

    And Texas Rob – let me know where you’re watching the games. I’ll mostly be at home with family and a few friends, but if there’s a local watering hole in the River City that won’t kick us out, the first round’s on me!

  18. Game one is a tune up. I really want Perkins to get his technical during the 2nd game. That means he’s missing the 1st game back in Boston — hummmmm!

  19. @Don
    That is an excellent article, and a point that rarely is brought up. Thank you for posting that link.

  20. @12, Craig W. I vote for a combination of ego and stupidity. From several accounts I’ve read, Butch was a huge control freak with a large ego.

    The most consistent story I’ve read from different accounts is he took it as an affront that Wilt wanted a breather. Wilt took himself out when Butch didn’t substitute for him. That act grated on Butch, he felt it was his decision as a coach, not Wilt to decide when Wilt could come out. Couple that with the season long friction, Butch decided that G7 was a great time to show who was the boss.

    Man, I’m getting nervous again about the series. I don’t want a repeat of 1969 where Boston was a shell of previous years but they beat a better Laker team.

  21. Chownoir,
    Butch didn’t like having Wilt on the team. He felt the coach was above all the players and that there were specific things each player should do. Wilt didn’t fit into his mold and resisted being pigeonholed.

    If you followed Wilt’s career from college on, as I did, the word pigeonhole and Wilt were allergic to each other. This was the 50’s and 60’s and people were supposed to respect their elders. Besides Wilt was black and definitely thought he was at least the equal of any other human being. This didn’t sit well with owners, the press, or many other coaches (Red Auerbach excepted). The one thing Wilt possessed – he brought the customers through the turnstiles.

  22. Replay of 2008 Game 1 on ESPN2 airing right now.

    I forgot just how good of a start we got off to in that game. Balanced scoring.

    It strikes me how much Pau has improved defensively. Forget ‘toughness’ or ‘softness’ or that junk. He just wasn’t a very good defensive player at the time. He was giving KG too much space, still letting KG swoop by him, and just not moving his feet quickly enough. Hat tip to Pau for improving defensively over the last couple years.

  23. Craig W.

    Wilt was a bit before my time, I grew up watching Magic, started watching basketball as a kid in the mid 70’s with the Jabbar Lakers but was too young to really understand the game at the time. But I’ve tried to read up on the history and personalities of the game. Wilt was definitely a fascinating person. Agree about the dynamics and his personality.

    Such a shame he died so young. I’ve always wondered how he’d do in today’s media age. I’d love to see his twitter feed and be a studio guy on a NBA show.

  24. hillcrestwildcat June 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Another good article about the rivalry in a similar vein as this one Bob Ryan wrote for the Boston Globe from what seems like memory to read it:

    http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2010/06/02/in_sports_history_nothing_can_rival_it/

  25. For reactions, opinions, predictions, and feedback on the lakers/celtics series, as well as the Dodgers and the rest of your favorite Los Angeles sports teams, check out my new blog, here.

    Written by a high school student seeing if he was what it takes to be a sports writer… feedback and comments would be appreciated. Thanks!

  26. Thoughts on Wilt, Craig. Only center to ever lead league in scoring, another year rebound and another year assists.

    Was good friend of movie producer friend of mine and I would often hang out with them at parties and or night clubs. Was a really nice guy who spent the last 10 years of his life going out looking for women. Was actually shy at clubs if you can imagine that.

    He would get 20 plus rebounds a game if he played now and block 3 plus shots a game. Also remember he was a top vollyball player and all around great at anything he tried.

    By the way I was a Laker fan when the names were Krebs, Ellis, LaRusso, Goodrich, Hazard and of course Baylor. Now that it a lot of years hating the ugly green hoodlums who had players that looked like lurch.

  27. Just a sidenote.. for anyone who thinks Kobe is anywhere near Magic/West status as the biggest Laker player ever, this quote pretty much sums up why he’s not.

    “I’m playing in it. I don’t give a damn about it. That’s for other people to get excited about. I get excited about winning.” — Bryant on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/news/story?id=5237769

    Magic and West spent their careers in LA battling and hating the greenshirts, making an important connection with the fans who shared the animosity. Kobe is too busy playing it off cool – lonewolf status. KB24 doesn’t relish the organization, the team and their history. He’s a true egomaniac.

  28. 27/igor, that’s not egomania. that’s concentration. that historical stuff has no bearing on the series. it’s just a distraction. every minute kobe spends musing and reflecting on the past is one less minute spent on preparation.

  29. Igor. The world is very different now. Email, twitter, blogs etc make every thought a public display. We only knew what the media wanted us to know back then. We would be shocked to know what secrets were kept about Jordan in Chicago or Magic after games.

    Now there is no privacy and for that reason Kobe is playing it correct but we all know he wants to beat the green as bad as West or Magic ever did.

  30. celtics’ greatest strength is also their greatest weakness when it comes to defending kobe, IMHO. their reactions are predictable.

    when kobe’s receiving a pass into the elbow from the left wing, the celtics front him.

    when kobe catches rondo on a cross-match in transition and posts him up, he’s immediately doubled.

    when kobe flashes to the middle and catches a ball at the free throw line, an interior defender immediately comes out to meet him.

    on the kobe-gasol screen-roll, the celtics switch.

    The celtics start to scramble when kobe threatens to get the ball inside the key, at the free throw line; or when he’s posting up a smaller player.

    If the Lakers put up good shots before the help arrives, our rebounders should be in position to rebound missed baskets. I believe that’s how you hurt the Celtics.

    On another note, NBA Fastbreak posted an encouraging statline. Last 3 seasons, when Artest is Pierce’s on-the-ball defender, he’s shooting 23.1%. In 38 plays, he has only 22 pts and .58 pt per play average.

  31. Sleep well Laker fans it will be an exiting next couple weeks. I will leave you with this… I have already spoke about the many differences between the ’08 and ’10 Finals, but there is one thing they both have in common. Before each series many basketball experts overlooked huge matchup disadvantages when picking the team without the home court advantage. Two years ago it was ignored that Perkins was just too strong for Gasol, and KG was too long and quick for Lamar. It was barley mentioned Pierce was just too good for Vlad and would need to be doubled for most of the series. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In 2010 it is being overlooked how Bynum is too big for the 6-10 Perkins and how Gasol is too long and quick for the older and injured KG. What about the fact that over the last 3 seasons Artest has not just slowed Pierce but has shut him down? What about the notion that this Celtic team doesn’t have a one on one defender like Posey to guard Kobe? Oh… and now the Lakers have that Lamar guy coming off the bench. The only difference favoring the Celtics is that Rondo is a much better player… but against Kobe we will see how much better he actually is. The guy normally does his offensive work in transition anyways. How about these “experts” start doing their homework and stop mailing it in. Two years ago I picked the Celtics to win… but the matchups have changed… will the results follow?

  32. Tomorrow, gentlemen, is the day we take back our pride. Tomorrow, gentlemen, IS THE DAY WE SHOW THE EAST COAST, WHAT WE CAN DO, AND WHAT WE WILL DO.

    Tomorrow, gentlemen, is the day when our uprising starts, and the beginning of our quest for #16.

    GO LAKERS!

  33. chibi – I’d buy it if Kobe didn’t reek of selfishness his entire career. Even when he plays team ball and dishes out assists, it’s still for his own cause, to add to his historical significance. He’s an egomaniac, his 13 years of on and off-court actions have painted a very clear picture. This man is not about the Lakers, he is about himself.

    Ken – Magic and Jerry have made their stance on the greenmen very clear through the media in years past. Kobe steers clear of history and just wants to build his resume. I don’t buy this argument one bit, sorry.

    Not to say I’m not glad he’s on our team – I’m just saying that Magic and Jerry should and will remain the favorite Lakers in the franchise’s history even if Kobe wins multiple additional rings in the purple & gold uniform (which as a Lakers fan I would welcome)

  34. Igor,

    I’m kind of with Kobe. West, Bird, Magic, Russell and Kareem are all retired. Pat Riley is in Miami and Red is resting in peace. This isn’t about Lakers lore vs. Celtic lore. It’s really not even about 2008. It is about today’s Laker team vs. today’s Celtic team.

    Nostalgia is great. But Magic is not coming out of retirement to run the point. Kobe is right to focus on the here and now. He can’t worry about what Magic did in 1987. He has to focus on what he will do in 2010.

  35. Igor,
    Kobe’s not about the team? Really? Whatever way you try to dice it, Kobe’s want to win is directly related to the success of the Lakers so whether he wants to win for himself (which I think is greatly exaggerated by you) or if it’s solely in the idea of the “team” it doesn’t matter. After the Lakers lost the 2008 Finals he said that he doesn’t play for MVP’s or to get to the Finals he plays to win championships. You can’t do that without a team and everyone on the team benefits from those victories. So give me a break on that.

    And then you make it seem like Kobe’s ego is bigger than some of the Lakers past? Magic’s ego was tremendous – you’ve seen his old interviews where he references himself in the 3rd person right? That didn’t diminish his greatness or his value to the Lakers or his want to win. And you cite West, but Kobe’s will to win mirrors that of the Logo. Regardless of Kobe’s motives (which, to all of us, are unknown), he’s driven to win and that’s all that matters. At this stage of the game, Kobe can say whatever he wants. If you think that it matters that he’s not talking about a “hate” of the Celtics, I don’t know what to tell you besides, how he feels about the opponent doesn’t matter. He wants to crush them because they wear the other jersey. Isn’t that enough? Just like he said, leave the history and the hate to the fans – he’s playing in the damn games. No other motivation is needed.

  36. I look (hear) forward to the two chant’s of ‘Beat LA’ and ‘Boston Sucks’, just like the old days, huh? Of course I prefer the latter…

  37. Regardless of how many more times Kobe wins, Magic will remain the soul of the franchise, at least until the generations remembering him die off.

    Still, if he becomes the player responsible for the Lakers finally matching and even exceeding Celtics’ Championship total… well, I think he’ll definitely make a very strong case for the greatest Laker of all time.

    And if Fisher can hit a few more clutch shots during that span, he may be even considered Kobe’s Pippen, as opposed to Shaq or Pau ;)

    Sorry, that last paragraph was just for Aaron ;)

  38. Shaq can’t hold a candle to Fisher ;)

    The more words and numbers about the coming matchup I digest, the more I think the Lakers seems to have the edge.

    The only huge unknown and possible Celtics-trump is how big an impact will the Celtics defence have on Kobe!?

    He was on fire in 2008, against better defences than Jazz and Suns, but then struggled mightily against the Celtics… That is what makes the finals such a fantastic and terrifying test; for the first time post-knee-drain the challenge is directly to Kobe.

    Its not just on the others to follow suit, the challenge will be on Kobe to lead in the first place.

  39. Just about every legendary player in this league has had an ego.

    Jerry West had the competitive fire of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Can you imagine MJ or Kobe having to lose 8 straight Finals? The pain would be tremendous, life-changing.

    Great article, Gatinho. Puts everything in context.

  40. I am on pins and needles about this game tomorrow. I can only imagine how the players feel. If I were them I would be in the gym shooting freethrows as we speak. Heck, If I thought it would help any, I’d do it myself right now. This may be the most tremendous 2 weeks of being a Lakers fan that I will ever experience. (Tremendously positive or negative)

    I grew up with Kobe as the golden child of the Lakers. Being born in1989 I have had to live through videos, family stories, and articles about the 1980’s rivalry. When we went down in 08, it was one of the most disappointing moments in Laker history for me. In highschool, I took crap for sporting Kobe jerseys and Lakers hats because of the drought caused by Kobe’s legal issues/ ballhog montre and a fallen dynasty that seemed* to have given away one of the greatest centers of all time for next to nothing. When we finally emerged once again without an ecocentric Shaq and a well respected Kobe Byant I thought I couldn’t be happier… But it got better! It seemed to be destiny when I found that our opponents were going to be our arch rivals. It all seemed to good to be true. We went from almost losing Kobe Bryant at the beginning of the season, to aquiring an all-star powerfoward, to making as deep of a run in the playoffs as you can. Without having to say anymore all this (personal) history in my own perspective lead to a great disappointment when we lost in the upmost upsetting fashion.

    As fate has seen it once more, we have these next 2 weeks to redeem ourselves and our pride as Laker fans. Yes, we do have one of the most successful teams in major sports but the only team with an edge on us are our arch rivals, the Celtics. So, that leaves only one thing for us to do to combat the ailing rivalry that we have came out on bottom of too many times… Whoop some Celtic hiney!!! (trying to keep it family orientated)

  41. I slept a total of 45 minutes last night. Hopefully the players are more mentally tough than I am.

    12 more hours. Let’s get it on!

  42. To Igor and others who have put Magic on a pedistal as the greatest Laker ever, and think that there is no way that Kobe could ever approach him, I want to put Magic in perspective for them.

    I had just started getting interested in pro ball because I had watched the great NCAA championship between Bird and Magic, and now they were pros. So I have watched the Lakers since Magic entered the league, and I think I can speak fairly about his strengths and weaknesses. I was and remain a HUGE Magic fan.

    His strengths: Magic, at a listed height of 6’9″, was a true point guard. He was a great ballhandler, excellent assist man, and ran the fast break superbly. He could, and often did run solo fast breaks (coast to coast), and he always found the open man. He was a solid post-up player in the halfcourt, which was good because he was always bigger and stronger than his defenders. He rebounded and defended adiquately.

    His weaknesses: Magic was not a good shooter, even at the rim. I can’t count the number of bunny shots that bounced off the rim when Magic shot contested layups. (In his defense, he usually converted the goal eventually by agressively rebounding his misses). He had a very inconsistent jumpshot, and even shots in the lane did not go down consistently. If teams pressured him in the backcourt, they could effectively neutralise much of his playmaking ability by forcing him to give up the ball, and then denying the return pass.

    So, in conclusion, Magic was a GREAT player, who changed the game of basketball, and ushered in the new era of basketball as a popular, exciting and visible sport. His smile and enthusiasm won him fans from every walk of life, and his success (and the Lakers) lead to the further success and popularity of the sport in the era of Michael Jordan and now in the Kobe era. But there is NO comparison between Magic and Kobe as to which one is the better player. Kobe does EVERYTHING well, and most things superbly. Magic did many things well, but some things rather poorly.

  43. The first Laker season that I remember was the 1969 season. Ever since that season, all my elementary school friends and I always called a high bounce off the heel of the rim that drops through the basket a “Don Nelson bounce.” At that young age, I didn’t understand the rivalry yet, and whenever I watched the occasional Celtic regular season game, Don Nelson was my favorite player because of his unusual free throw shooting style. But after that Finals, I hated him, and I’ve never forgiven him since.

  44. Let me tell you, Igor, I thought the way you did about Kobe until the last few years. I thought he was selfish, I thought he was responsible for breaking up the team, I thought he was extremely selfish during the 2004 season (just as much as Shaq), and was angry with him when he wanted to leave the Lakers after it became his team.

    But the last few years, with the amount of bball he plays through injuries, getting high assist totals, and just being amazing leader, you can’t really complain about how he gets his motivation. He wants to be the best basketball player of all time. He wants to be in the conversation with Michael Jordan. He wants to be the reason.

    The sad part is, Kobe’s persona is what makes him a polarizing figure. He isn’t media friendly. And Magic was. Magic was all about the Showtime. I mean the guy’s nickname was MAGIC. He was good about it. He was always in front of a camera. Kobe isn’t. But u know what, neither was michael. I mean, this was a guy who got into a fight with Steve Kerr during practice.

    But I don’t see how Kobe isn’t in the conversation. And even I, one of kobe’s biggest critics since he airballed 4 three pointers v. Utah, is probably the best Laker (especially if he beats him).

  45. Jeez – I had to bust out the Lakers Dynasty DVD set last night and watch the ’85 Return To Glory video just to satiate my hoops Jones. Here’s hoping the results 25 years later are the same. Let’s go Lakers!

  46. Just a quick comment on Kobe and his ego. I don’t think the man is egotistic. Egotism is 100% self-centered. Watch him with his daughters, or watch the way he is now respected by hos team mates and leads the team… he’s not narcissistic or egotistic. What he is, and what probably comes off as all of the above, is extremely arrogant. He is also convinced that he is the best basketball player in the league right now, and that kind of confidence grates at people who see it.

    Does anyone honestly think Kobe would have been able to compete at the level he does, if he didn’t believe that no one else is as good a player as he is?

    Exactly. That’s why this whole LeBron vs Kobe hype is so ridiculous. Yes, of course Kobe wants to be greater than LeBron, but it has nothing to do with two consecutive MVP awards and a few scoring records. Kobe wants to be greater than everyone else, and LeBron happens to belong to that group.

    Now that I have posted just as ridiculous a personality analysis as Igor did earlier :D let’s stop nitpicking and start enjoying the fact that we have the best player in the league on our side tonight. We also have Pau Gasol who is a much better defender now than he used to be, an Andrew Bynum who will actually be on the court and who is eager to make a difference, and we have a pit bull of a defender to match up with Paul Pierce.

    We’re about to face the Celtics in the NBA Finals again! Time for revenge.

  47. Oh god Kobe character analysis? It must have been awhile since we’ve had a game to watch.

  48. @46: I’m sorry to do this, but this mistype was the absolute perfect way to start a nervous Game One morning:

    Watch him with his daughters, or watch the way he is now respected by hos…

    —–
    9 HOURS, BABY!! ‘Time for revenge’, indeed.

  49. Yeah, hos = hostile, lol Mimsy, great typo. Down to eight hours now.