So the NBA Finals begin this Thursday after a lengthy break for the players and coaching staff. And once my beloved Suns (the Raptors were long gone, leaving the Suns as my favourite) bowed out to the Lakers in six on Friday night, it was official.
As an aside, Kobe made a couple of unbelievable shots down the stretch, didn’t he? Dude is crazy good.
Anyway, the most storied rivalry in the NBA will start anew with Boston and Los Angeles set to spar in the Finals. As a relatively young NBA fan, I didn’t grow up watching Bird and Magic in the 80s. And I definitely didn’t see Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain go at it in the 60s. But after doing some research, it became clear that the rivalry is not dreamt up by the media to sell more tickets or lure more viewers. It is legit.
Here’s a few reasons why:
- From 1959 to 1969, the Lakers and Celtics met in the Finals seven times, with Boston winning them all. To have the same two teams at the end seven out of ten times is pretty amazing.
- Almost 20 years later, the rivalry was renewed with the two teams meeting in the ’84, ’85, and ’87 Finals with the Lakers winning two of the three
- Those series in the 80s can best be summed up in three words: Bird vs Magic. Even the most casual sports fan knows what they mean. These guys symbolized their respective teams and cities. Bird was less flashy and represented the working-class grit of Boston, an efficient and amazingly productive player. Magic would dazzle you with his nifty playmaking, representing the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. As Bryant Gumbel once said, Bird and Magic “saved the NBA.”
- After the battles in the 80s, a guy named Jordan came along and briefly put the rivalry on hold. But lately, the teams have gotten used to seeing each other again. Two years ago, the Celtics beat the Lakers in six to win the championship. By the way, the clinching game for Boston was won by 39 points. Think the Lakers remember?
Fast forward to the present and all I can say is here we go again. I’ll be back to offer up some prediction but in the meantime check this out: