The Boston Celtics versus the Los Angeles Lakers: Their Rivalry and their Legacy

Winner Takes All


The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers battled on Thursday, June 17 in the seventh game of the 2010 NBA Finals with the Lakers prevailing to win their second consecutive NBA championship. It was the fifth game seven between these two teams in the history of their championship rivalry, and the second time in three years the Lakers and Celtics dueled for NBA supremacy. The games have been filled with spectacular play by both teams and the Celtics, Lakers and the NBA can all be proud.

The history of the NBA Finals is rife with Lakers/Celtics matchups. These two teams have met in the NBA Finals twelve times in the last fifty years. Boston has won nine titles against the Lakers, with Los Angeles beating their Eastern Conference foes only three times. The rosters of these teams throughout their rivalry read like a Who’s Who of basketball. The Lakers have been represented in the Finals by Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain in the 60’s; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and James Worthy in the 80’s; and, most recently, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Boston countered with Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Sam Jones in the 60’s; Larry Bird, Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale in the 80’s; and, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the 21st century. There have been so many other great players along the way, as well. Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White won titles for Boston in the 70’s against Milwaukee and Phoenix, and the Lakers won three in a row ten years ago with a guy named Shaquille O’Neal.


Lakers and Celtics: Two Dynasties

Former Lakers star Jerry West is "the logo"
Former Lakers star Jerry West is "the logo"
The Lakers came up short against Boston in the 60's
The Lakers came up short against Boston in the 60's
Kobe Bryant is seeking a fifth NBA championship
Kobe Bryant is seeking a fifth NBA championship

What's at stake for the Lakers?


The Lakers emerged from the 2010 NBA playoffs victorious and claimed their 16th NBA title, trailing only Boston in championships. They have appeared in the Finals a record 31 times, but lost all eight of their Finals appearances to Boston in the 60’s. Their most recent win against their biggest rival solidified their place in history as Boston’s equal, even if their head-to-head matchups over the years suggest otherwise.

The 2010 championship holds meaning for the Lakers’ players and coaches, as well. Phil Jackson sealed his 11th NBA title with a victory over Boston. In 2009 he supplanted Boston coach Red Auerbach for most NBA championships. 11 titles make his record very difficult (if not impossible) to match. It has been rumored that Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss will mandate a pay cut for Jackson following the end of the season; the fifth championship banner under Jackson’s watch gives him a little more clout in defending his salary.

A fifth championship for Kobe Bryant inches him toward a legitimate comparison with Michael Jordan. Bryant is arguably the most dominant player in the last decade, and if he could possibly earn as many championships as MJ, it would be very difficult to keep Bryant out of a “who is better” discussion. If Kobe retires with fewer rings than Michael, history will view Jordan as the superior player, regardless of whatever Bryant may accomplish in the years to come.

A second title also cements Pau Gasol’s reputation as the best big man in basketball today. It is not an era of great centers, but Gasol stands out for his complete game. This skilled big man is adept at shooting and passing, and is an underrated rebounder and defender. His game reminds one of Bill Walton’s when the Big Redhead was healthy and dominating the middle for the Portland Trailblazers. Pau Gasol can’t match Walton’s skills, but he is currently the best in the game and his second championship matches those earned by other great big men such as Walton himself, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.


A rivalry spanning over fifty years

The Celtics want to bring another title to Boston
The Celtics want to bring another title to Boston
The Celtics/Lakers rivalry has included some of basketball's greatest players
The Celtics/Lakers rivalry has included some of basketball's greatest players
Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant look to cement their place in history
Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant look to cement their place in history

What's at stake for the Celtics?


Boston couldn't take the 2010 NBA Championship and capture their 18th title overall, but this Boston team featuring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will still be remembered with great teams of the past, including the Celtics team of the 70’s with Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, Jo Jo White and John Havlicek. The Celtics are an aging team, and probably do not have another championship run in them. They can be proud of contributing to the Celtic dynasty, even if they couldn't establish a dynasty of their own.

Paul Pierce has never been mentioned in the same breath with Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade or even Carmelo Anthony—generally considered to be the greatest wing players in the game today, but his play in the 2010 season and playoffs should put him in the conversation. History still won’t give Pierce his due, but this underrated star deserves to be mentioned among the greatest currently playing at his position.

A second championship would have firmly established Kevin Garnett as a winner as well, but it wasn't to be. His record of playoff futility with the Minnesota Timberwolves helped label him a great player who couldn’t win the big one, and only time will tell how this talented and versatile basketball player is remembered.

Finally, the 2010 playoffs established Rajon Rondo as one of the most complete point guards in the game. His speed and quickness, coupled with his rebounding and defensive abilities make him a threat to dominate any game he is in. In 2008, his abilities were still in question—fans and sports writers wondered if Boston could win with Rondo. Only two years later, it is apparent they can’t win without him.


What does the 2010 Finals mean for the fans?


For fans of the NBA, the 2010 Finals was a delight. Throughout seven games, only one wasn’t competitive and five were great games. It wasn't always pretty, but it was two teams playing hard on both ends of the floor. This was a far cry from watching the hopelessly outmatched Orlando Magic choke in the 2009 Finals, or New Jersey, Indiana and Cleveland getting carved up by the Lakers or San Antonio. This was basketball at its best, and any fan of the game has to appreciate the legacy of these two great teams and their fabulous players. Bryant, Pierce, and Garnett will be remembered among the best players ever. It is possible Gasol, Allen and Rondo may be similarly regarded, as well. Fifty years from now, young fans watching the 2010 playoffs will tell their children and grandchildren how great these players were. Those who would have been too young to watch will not believe Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett were as good they are, just as those who never saw Chamberlain and Russell don't believe. Fans who saw the 2010 Finals will know the truth, however.

This latest installment in Celtics/Lakers lore was more than just another game or series. This was about sustaining a dynasty. The impact of game seven will extend well beyond this year's playoffs. With the Lakers come-from behind victory in game seven, the questions are answered for the moment. These two teams played a winner-take-all game for their place in history. The Celtics were defeated but when a series is this good, there are no losers. Forget about where LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the rest are going to play basketball next year. History is made on the court--not through reporters.


Cast your vote for the best!

Which NBA team is the greatest of all time?

  • Boston Celtics
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • New York Knicks
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Other
See results without voting

Comments 34 comments

zzron profile image

zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

zzron, thanks for stopping by.

Mike


Gemineye profile image

Gemineye 6 years ago

It's weird how Paul Pierce is never mentioned as a great player. He has a great game, can play off the dribble, come off screens, pass the ball...yet nothing. Kobe is an awesome player (I personally can't stand him) and winning a 5th would definately put him in "that catagory". (Oddly enough, I never was a Jordan fan either..hrmmm)

KG is one of the best I have ever watched play the game, I root for him hard everytime he plays. Being a Celtic fan with LArry Bird days, and the fact that the Celts are the "old guys", makes me root even more for them. No one gave them a chance in this years playoffs (including me) and yet here they are gm 7 for the title. It's a pretty cool story.

Hoping the Celtics beat the Lakers in LA. Then again, I would root for a trashcan to win playing the Lakers.

Great hub!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Gemineye, thanks for stopping by. I've always wondered why Paul Pierce is snubbed when discussing great players, also. Not only can he do all the things you've mentioned offensively, he is perhaps the best defender of the great wing players. In his prime he was probably the best rebounder, as well. When Pierce was younger he filled the stat sheets in much the same way LeBron James does now. Pierce wasn't the athlete James is, but his game had no flaws. But, Perce is still never mentioned in discussions of "great" wing players. A second ring against Bryant (if Boston could do it) would help remedy that.

I have always enjoyed watching Garnett play, as well. I have been critical of his game sometimes, but the guy was one of the greatest athletes ever when he was younger.

I have always been a Lakers fan, but I am rooting for Kansas alum Paul Pierce and Boston to win Game 7. We shall see what happens.

Thanks again for leaving a comment.

Mike


Walkster profile image

Walkster 6 years ago from Lavergne,tn

Great hub Mike! I am a celtic fan but regardless i have enjoyed the series. I do hope the Celtics show up for game 7. i think they must have not got the memo for game 6 lol!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Walkerster, thanks for stopping by. Boston played like they knew they had two chances, and LA played like they knew they didn't. It also hurt Boston on the inside when Kendrick Perkins went down. I hope he is healthy for game 7.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

I must admit,did not read through it all. You have done a good job, though, by separation of the issues, and open it up for discussion. If I was a sportfan and knew the teams,I would partake in opinion. Thanx for the post.


Teddletonmr profile image

Teddletonmr 6 years ago from Midwest USA

Mike, thanks for the "Great Hub" with all the imformation, and insights to the Boston, LA match-ups. There has been so many truly great plaiers over the years, selecting the best player of them all is impossible, for me anyway. Wilt the stilt, Jabbar, Pistol Pete, Mikey, Larry Bird, They all made the game special. Hub up.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Equealla, thanks for stopping by. Not everyone enjoys sports, and I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment. Thank you very much.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Teddletonmr, thanks for stopping by. Nice to find someone who enjoyed watching Pete Maravich. That guy was amazing. The others, of course, are the true legends of the game and they were all players who would succeed in any era they played in.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

You go, Celtics! I'm rooting for you!


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

Don't care for sports much but wanted to congratulate you on the 100!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Paradise, thanks for stopping by. I'm rooting for the Celtics, as well! Gotta root for KU alum Paul Pierce.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Pollyannalana, thanks for noticing the 100 and stopping by. I appreciate it a great deal. Take care.

Mike


Enigmatic Me profile image

Enigmatic Me 6 years ago from East Coast Canada

Gemineye, I had the exact same conversation about FIsher... he'll be getting his 5th ring if LA wins... consistent player throughout his career.... HOF worthy>??? One could argue...


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Enigmatic, Fisher certainly can make a claim to greatness, although I'm not sure he was better than Byron Scott. Are either Hall of Fame worthy, or are they complimentary players supporting Shaq or Gasol and Kobe Bryant, and in Scott's case, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. It's a bit like asking if the Beatles could have been great without George or Ringo--the answer is probably, but they couldn't have been great without John and Paul. An interesting question, whether the arena is sports or music.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Celtics of course, I am forever fan of Bird and Pierce, and your analysis and insights are profound and excellent, Tonight is the night, Thans Mike, and take care, Beautiful rated up, like me, hehe, Maita


Enigmatic Me profile image

Enigmatic Me 6 years ago from East Coast Canada

Lakers win. Finally a Game 7 worth watching.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Maita, thanks for stopping by. The Celtics just didn't have enough and it was a shame Kendrick Perkins wasn't available for such a huge game. It was a great series, though--one of the most enjoyable in a long time.

Thanks again.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Enigmatic, you're right! This was a great game seven, with both sides seemingly playing as hard as they possibly could. Not only was it a great game, the entire Finals was terrific.

Thanks very much for leaving a comment.

Mike


emievil profile image

emievil 6 years ago from Philippines

Congrats Lakers! It has been an exciting series. Even though Celtics lost in the end, they should still hold their heads high.

I hope Lakers will retain Jackson as coach next year. I admire the man, very cool, very intelligent, and he knows how to deal with his players. I really hope he'll stay and win his 12th championship. Now that will be something that will be an unbeaten record for years, if not decades, to come.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Emievil, thanks for stopping by. I agree that in this series, no one has a reason to hang their head. This was an "old style" playoff series, with both teams obviously playing as hard as they could. There were very few of the ESPN Top Ten Plays type of highlights because the defense was so good, nobody got to the rim for dunks. This series is what pro basketball is all about.

I hope the Lakers keep Jackson as well--there are plenty of rotten coaches in the league, and far too few good ones.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Mike


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Mike it was definitely a battle and an instant classic. I cannot stand the Celtics as I am forever a Lakers fan but they definitely have my respect ! When other teams win their divisions and conferences they celebrate. Not the Lakers or the Celtics though , nothing less then a championship is acceptable for either of these teams. Even in a bad year they expect to be there at the end.

And also usually teams at crunch time have trouble putting it together on the road. The Lakers and the Celtics are pretty much the only two teams that can win on the other teams floor when the pressure is on ! Both teams could be winless halfway through the season next year and the game would still mean everything ! It was a great series and I musta had three strokes before the fourth quarter !


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 6 years ago from London, UK

This is interesting Mike. I like the way everyone gets wrapped up in the games. You guys are lucky to enjoy these games we don't have them here. Rajon Rondo seems to be the best player.

Looking at the photo's -I'm wondering who the tallest NBA player is in America...

Great Hub. :)


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey, Tony, thanks for stopping by. It certainly was a great series, and it was an example of what the NBA should be. I've been a fan of both the Lakers and the Celtics since I was a kid watching Jerry West, John Havlicek, Wilt and Bill Russell play. The Celtics will certainly regret lost opportunities (as LA would if they lost the series), but neither side has anything to be ashamed of. This was one of the best NBA finals in a long time.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Elena! Yeah, we go crazy about our sports here in America, don't we? I love basketball, and I am a fan of football and tennis as well. I have to admit, baseball and hockey don't do much for me.

The tallest NBA player currently in the league is 7'6" Yao Ming from China. To my knowledge, the tallest player ever to play the game was 7'7" Manute Bol from Sudan (I think). He recently passed away, and was remembered not for his NBA career, but for the charitable works he used his money for in Africa.

Thanks for reading, Elena!

Mike


Canklefish profile image

Canklefish 6 years ago from East Coast

I voted other in your poll, because I'm always partial to the Bad boy Pistons of the late 80's.

Isiah Thomas has been rather overlooked in the annals of basketball history as one of the greatest to ever lace'em up.

Great hub, and really nice for basketball to have this rivalry play out in the NBA finals. Lebron who?


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Canklefish, thanks for reading. Isiah and the Bad Boys weren't my favorite team to watch, but I certainly respected their talent and acknowledge their place in basketball history. A few more breaks and they could have had three or four NBA championships. They lost a tough series to both the Lakers and the Celtics along the way.

LeBron who, indeed? Frankly, I think all the discussion about where James might play ball is so overblown, it is a disgrace. But, I know it is just part of the whole 24 hour a day sports reporting that marks this era.

Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate them a great deal.

Mike


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I don't know any of the players. They never call or come by the house so I guess it doesn't matter a whole lot. I guess I'll always be a Celtic fan because of those 5 crippled Celtics who battled the Lakers with that deep bench way back when. Magic traveled about every time he had the ball it seemed. Of course many players "had their move". Those Celtics were the best of that era. There were only 5 of them though. I'm sure Bostn has "enough money" but LA represents "The Money". Somewhere inside is a Celtic fan. Even if they lost I would rather watch those five with The Chief, Ainge, Johnson, McHale, and that Bird with his "magic"!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Micky, I am also a fan of the Celtics from that era. When they won their title in 1986, not only did they have those five great starters, they had Bill Walton, Scott Wedman and Jerry Sichting coming off the bench. That was a tremendously deep and talented team. The next year when they played the Lakers, they were indeed quite injured. If I remember correctly, McHale might have had a broken foot. But they battled with all their might and won the respect of lots of folks who previously didn't like Boston. That was indeed a great team.

Thanks for your comments, they are most appreciated.

Mike


Serendipity88 profile image

Serendipity88 6 years ago from California

A really great and informative read! It is true that “The Truth” will never get the acknowledgment he deserves. He is an amazing forward and has only improved over his ten year run. Unfortunately, I highly doubt that Pierce will ever be mentioned or compared to players such as Bryant. I want to thank you for talking about Rajon Rondo. His performance in the 2010 Finals was beautiful! Rondo really held his own and refused to give any sign of defeat (even during game seven!) I just wonder what would have happened if Perkins had managed to stay in the game…would the outcome of been different? I think that you are dead on about Gasol… Thank you for your write! Extremely interesting! :)


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Serendipity, thanks for reading. A second title would have greatly enhanced Paul Pierce's stature as an all-time great player, but it wasn't to be and his skills might have eroded with age too much to compete for another title.

If Kendrick Perkins had remained healthy, the series might well have been different. It is important to remember that not only did Perkins miss all of game seven, he missed most of game six, as well. This put pressure on an aging Rasheed Wallace to play more minutes and stay out of foul trouble. One less big man for Boston made it far easier for Pau Gasol to play well.

Rondo certainly deserved all the accolades he received for his play in the post-season. Like Paul Pierce, he will likely never be given his due, as most folks are more apt to mention Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Derrick Rose as the best point guards in the game today. Next season, of course, the talk will be about John Wall. If Rondo continues to work on his jump shot, he will be as good as any of them.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.

Mike


Richard Stephen 6 years ago

I grew up a die hard Laker fan and have always loved the LA-Boston rivalry. The last few years even more so with Boston back in the Finals after a 19 year absence. I fear that the Celtics are too old to get back to the finals this coming season but, then again, that is what everyone was saying last year. Rajon Rondo scares the crap out of me! The sky is the limit for him. I would like to see a Lakers-Celtics finals with everyone healthy including Perkins, Bynum, Bryant and everyone else. It's a shame to have key players injured during the playoffs. Here's hoping for another rematch next June!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Richard, thanks for reading. I would also love to see a Lakers-Celtics series with everyone healthy and in top form. When the Celtics won in 2008, Bynum was injured. When the Lakers won last spring, Perkins was injured for game seven and most of game six. I thought it was a shame that Rasheed Wallace is expected to retire--even though he isn't my favorite player, I thought he helped Boston a great deal. I also read in today's paper that Shaquille O'Neal is considering signing with the Celtics.

I have also loved Lakers-Celtics finals, and I've enjoyed them ever since I started watching the game.

Thanks for stopping by. It should be an interesting season in 2010-2011.

Mike

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