The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are not the only two super teams to monopolize the NBA for years at a time. The last time the league was held captive by two basketball Titans was the 1980s, when the Boston Celtics and Los Angles took the NBA to new heights showcasing an already storied rivalry rejuvenated by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s stardom. While the rivalry has endured decades and at time it seems that there has been no love lost between the two franchises, the two fanbases have shared some of basketball’s greatest moments together. While the rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers goes back even further, ESPN’s 30 For 30 franchise’s next picture, “Best of Enemies” will look to tell the greatest chapters of the NBA’s most storied rivalry. Growing up on basketball history, this is the most excited I have been for a 30 For 30 ever. Here are some of my thoughts on the rivalry the history I hope to learn more about June 13 and 14.
The NBA saw its first and likely great dynasty when the Boston Celtics won 11 championships between 1957-1969. The Celtics had at least 3 players represent the Celtics as an All Star from 1957-68, only John Havlicek and Russell mad the team in 1969.
The Celtics’ 1959, 62,63, 65, 66, 68, and 69 were against the Lakers who they defeated every times. Despite losing to Boston, the Lakers were also an early NBA super power. The Lakers at least two players to the All Star game in each of the seasons they met the Celtics in the finals. The Celtics and Lakers both boasted four all stars when the met in the 1962 NBA Finals. The Celtics were seemingly unbeatable for over a decade and clearly more super of the the NBA’s original super teams.
The rivalry got a lot more interesting in 1979 but not for the reasons you might expect. The Basketball gods gave the world a preview of what was to come when Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores met Ervin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans in the Final Four. Magic and the Spartans would win the first battle but that was only the beginning of the war between the two legends. Bird and Magic would meet 3 more times in the NBA Finals in 84, 85, and 87. This time, the Lakers would get the better of the Celtics winning two of the series.
Bird and Magic were the marquee match up but far from the only weapons for their respective teams. The Lakers big three of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy were perennial all stars. The lakers were complimented by athletic two-way guards, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper. For the Celtics, it was Kevin McHale, Larry Bird, and Robert Parish, aided by Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge and a very old Bill Walton.
While the NBA focuses on tomorrow night’s Game 5 between the Cavs and Warriors, it is only fitting that the 30 For 30 will debut the following day to remind the basketball world that this actually has happened before and that someday, it will to be remembered as some of the greatest basketball battles of all time.