About four months ago, when the Celtics visited the Knicks for the first time after the offseason retooling that brought in Amare Stoudemire, C's captain Paul Pierce laughed at the notion that Boston and New York had a rivalry on the basketball court.
It was Dec. 14, 2010, the day before the C's arrived at Madison Square Garden to take on the revitalized Knicks on national TV. Pierce had just finished practice, and the first question from the media that day was about how he felt to rediscover the rivalry with the Big Apple.
"It's a rivalry?" he said. "Oh, man. You all let me in on all the new stuff all the time.
"I didn't even know we had a rivalry. But hey, if that's what you want it to be, if that's what'll sell more tickets and attract more viewers, then OK. You make up the rivalries, we don't."
Pierce's words that day were a little misguided at best, and completely insane at worst. But in his defense, he's only 33, so he hasn't been around long enough to fully soak in the storied history that is Celtics-Knicks.
The rivalry began exactly 60 years ago, when the C's and Knicks faced each other in the playoffs for the first time. It was the first round of the "Eastern Division" playoffs, and the Knicks won a best-of-three series with two blowouts on March 20 and 22.
Six weeks later, Mike D'Antoni was born. Tommy Heinsohn was in high school.
The C's and Knicks met in the playoffs four times between 1951 and '55, with the Knicks winning three times out of four. After a lull for the next decade, they met again in '67. The Knicks had cracked their first postseason in years, led by a young Willis Reed. The C's had John Havlicek in his prime, and an aging Bill Russell as player-coach. Boston cruised, three games to one.
Danny Ainge was in first grade, and Doc Rivers in preschool. Walt Frazier had just graduated from Southern Illinois.
The Celtics beat the Knicks in three of five postseason meetings between 1967 and '74. The C's won titles in '68, '69 and '74; the Knicks won in '70 and '73.
In 1984, the C's beat the Knicks in the second round, in seven games. They went on to win the Finals. Carmelo Anthony was born.
The Celtics knocked the Knicks out in the first round in 1988. Amare Stoudemire was five.
The last time they met in the playoffs was in 1990, in the first round. The Celtics pushed the Knicks to the full five games but lost; the Knicks then fell one round later. Shaquille O'Neal was a freshman at LSU.
All in all, you're looking at 12 playoff series spanning over a half-century. Starting this weekend is series number 13.
Sorry, Paul. But if that's not a rivalry, then what is?