The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics had one of the greatest rivalries in sports and it is about to pick up once again.
After meeting for three straight years in the NBA Finals, people started comparing the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics rivalry. Although impressive, this doesn’t even start to compare in terms of history and overall hatred for one another.
As much as people want to believe it, Kevin Durant vs Lebron James will never be nearly as competitive as Magic Johnson vs Larry Bird. Now I am aware the Lakers and Celtics haven’t met in the Finals in almost a decade, but trust me, Lakers and Celtics fans have not forgotten who they hate the most in the NBA. This rivalry might not be the same as it was in the 80’s but after this offseason, it is on track to pick up right where they left off.
The Celtics have done a great job of making a competitive team since they last met the Lakers in the Finals in 2010. They have made the playoffs six times since then, compared to the Lakers three. Neither team has made it back to the Finals since their last meeting and the Celtics are clearly more suited to return before the Lakers are, especially after this offseason.
Acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers via trade and Gordon Hayward via free agency makes the championship caliber team for not just this season, but many seasons to come. Obviously, the Lakers roster isn’t prepared for an NBA Finals run this season, but we all know how much money they are going to have next offseason and the players that will be available for them to sign. This is what will be fueling the revamped rivalry of the Lakers and Celtics.
With the moves the Celtics made this offseason, they not only made improvements on their current roster, but they prepared for the future. Isaiah Thomas had a great season and no one doubts his ability to score the ball and take over a game. However, he is a 28-year old (turning 29 this season) 5’8″ point guard coming off a serious hip injury. Kyrie Irving is 25 years old.
I am going to say that again to emphasize the severity of that statement, Kyrie Irving is 25 YEARS OLD! He is already a top-five point guard in the NBA, a proven scorer every season and not only won an NBA title but hit the game winning 3-pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to defeat the best team (record wise) in NBA history. Say what you want about Irving’s defense but Thomas was even more of a liability on that side of the ball.
The loss of Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley immediately makes their defense worse but they’ll be able to make up that difference with the strength they added on offense. Gordon Hayward finally gets to play with Brad Stevens again, which can only lead to magic on the court. They also have young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who have massive potential to become great players in the league. The Celtics are a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Now let’s look at the Lakers. Although they might not be in the Finals this season, they have a lot to look forward to. A plethora of cap space after this season could mean big name free agents ready to resurrect the Lakers back to Finals glory.
Let’s assume for a second that all the rumors are correct and Paul George and Lebron James both sign with the Lakers next offseason. You add two superstars and pair them alongside Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. Add another role player to the mix and now they have a roster that can not only compete for a title right now but also sets them up for the future. Don’t forget, Paul George is only 27 years old and just had the best statistical season of his career. The rivalry starts here.
Now, the old Celtics and Lakers rivalry was fueled mainly by hate. Both sides hated each other with a fiery passion and they made it known. In case you forgot what Kevin McHale did in the 1984 NBA Finals, here is a refresher.
Although the players on both rosters might not have the personal hatred for the opposing players yet, they still have the fundamental basis for hate, that being if you are a Los Angeles Laker, you hate the Boston Celtics. End of story. The same is true for the ladder. Not to mention the hatred between the front office.
Magic Johnson is the president of basketball operations for the Lakers now and I fully believe that there isn’t a person on this planet that hates the Boston Celtics more than Magic does. Danny Ainge is the GM and president of basketball operations for the Celtics and he is one of the biggest know Lakers haters in the NBA. So whether or not these players have personal vendettas against each other yet is irrelevant, their front office will plant the hatred in the players head one way or another.
Assuming the rosters look the way I mentioned above, this rivalry will arise again and the fans should be ready. Paul George and Lonzo Ball spent their entire lives as die-hard Lakers fans which means they already hate Celtics. Lebron has been dealing with the Celtics his entire career so he must already possess a little hatred for them. If he doesn’t, imagine Lebron and Kyrie meeting in the NBA Finals as the first reunion of Lakers vs Celtics. That has potential to be one of the highest viewed Finals of all time.
Not to mention what is going to happen if the Celtics and Cavaliers meet in the playoffs at some point this offseason, which seems likely, that will only add fuel to the fire. Throw in some random rivalries like Jayson Tatum seeking revenge for the Lakers passing him up for Lonzo Ball or Lonzo refusing to workout for the Boston Celtics. Throw in some Beat LA chants and a couple of on-court scuffles and we are right back in the heart of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
I understand that this is based on a lot of “what if” statements but I believe this has a chance of happening and I think the NBA could really benefit from a revitalized Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
First off, it gives Lakers fans the chance to finally look forward to something, which they haven’t been able to do in a long time. Most importantly, it would allow Magic Johnson to once again shatter the hopes and dreams of Celtics fans by beating them in the Finals and there is nothing sweeter in this world than beating the Celtics in the NBA Finals.