Why Celtics-Lakers Heated Rivalry Is Best In NBA History

The Celtics and Lakers are the perfect clash


Feb 21, 2023

When the NBA schedule comes out each year, it’s a priority to circle when the Boston Celtics will face the Los Angeles Lakers.

It doesn’t matter if the two illustrious franchises are title contenders that season or headed for the lottery, the heated rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers has stood the test of time.

There’s a reason for that, as Boston and Los Angeles have the perfect foundational piece for hated rivals: Success at one another’s expense.

The Celtics and Lakers have squared off in the NBA Finals an eye-popping 12 times in their history, doing so once in 1959 when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis. Boston absolutely dominated Los Angeles in the 1960s, prevailing five times over the Lakers in the decade alone with the title at stake.

That had to fill those who supported the Lakers, and the organization itself, with plenty of animosity and jealously. It’s almost as if the Celtics were torturing the Lakers as successful seasons came and went with them having to continuously watch Boston snatch the ultimate prize away and celebrate.

After eight straight losses in the NBA Finals to the Celtics, the Lakers finally exorcised demons and knocked their rival down a peg in 1985. For the first time, the Celtics lost the championship on their home floor. That surely didn’t sit well with those in Boston.

The 1985 championship for the Lakers was the beginning of Los Angeles winning three out of its last four NBA Finals matchups it has had against the Celtics. The Celtics still lead the overall series, 9-3.

When they aren’t beating each other, the Celtics and Lakers have gotten their hands on plenty of Larry O’Brien trophies. Piling up the titles has led to each team trying to claim bragging rights and cement themselves as the premier franchise in the NBA. The Celtics and Lakers each own 17 titles.

In their battles, the two sides featured plenty of star power, with each fan base believing the players they cheered for were superior in every way. It also created many heroes and villains who took center stage, like when Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis in the 1984 Finals to create a memorable moment.

All the star-studded players putting on the iconic jerseys led to interesting debates as well. Nobody put up stats like Wilt Chamberlain, a four-time MVP, but were the numbers less impressive compared to Bill Russell’s winning ability? Larry Bird and Magic Johnson revived the NBA in the 1980s, but which player had the better career?

Those debates could go on and on and on and make up part of the fabric of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

The two teams being from completely opposite cities, and what they stood for, also added fuel to the rivalry. The Lakers are thought of to be prima donnas, focused on great individual talent while the Celtics no doubt had stars, but turned in a team effort to reach the mountain top.

In Los Angeles, it was all about the glitz and the glam, making head-turning plays all in the name of “Showtime” basketball. While in a blue-collar city like Boston, it was more about putting in a workmanlike effort, and not being afraid to bust a knee diving for a loose ball before picking yourself up and doing it again.

The two styles, and cities, are a perfect clash, helping to make it the most storied rivalry in all the NBA. The rivalry has so many unique parts, particularly the history, that can’t be replicated. The two teams are rivals now and that won’t ever change.

There’s a reason why “Beat LA” being chanted in Boston has a ring to it.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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