by Rey Moralde / @TheNoLookPass
And here we go again. It’s the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics for the 12th time in NBA Finals history.
People are saying this match-up is played out. That we don’t need to see this. Maybe it’s because I’m from Southern California that I relish this series but, truth be told, a lot of us grew up on the Lakers versus Celtics duels in the ’80s.
First off, if you’re truly a fan of the game, you have to love this. The history is there. The star power. The rivalry. And, most of all, appreciate on how these two teams are the best of the best. They didn’t get here by accident. I personally waited two years for this rematch. Sure, we saw the Los Angeles Lakers go up and down throughout the season. Sure, we saw the Boston Celtics struggle to a fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. But we figured the Lakers were the most talented team in the West and we thought the Celtics could do damage once they were completely healthy. The Lakers beat a very game Oklahoma City Thunder, an overmatched Utah Jazz team, and the very resilient Phoenix Suns on the way to the Finals while Boston crushed the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Orlando Magic. These teams are the best in their respective conferences, bar none.
This is the second time in three years that the Lakers and Celtics are facing each other in the Finals. How can this be played out? We all know the rich history of this rivalry. A lot of our fond memories of the NBA involved Magic Johnson against Larry Bird. Did we say they were played out? No. We always look back and go, “Man, I miss the days when Magic ran Showtime,” or “Wow, I miss the clutch play of Larry Bird.” In the era of free agency, it’s rare for teams to have Finals rematches (the last one being the Bulls and the Jazz in ’97 and ’98). This match-up is even more special because it’s the two most storied franchises in NBA history. We have to appreciate what we have here. Ten years from now, I’m pretty sure we’ll say stuff like, “Remember when Ray Allen hit those big three-point shots,” or “Do you remember that monster game Kobe Bryant had in Game 3?”
This may not have the deep rivalry that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had. But this series has serious star power.
Let’s look at the Lakers really quick. Kobe Bryant is one of the best players ever in history. Pau Gasol may be the most successful foreign-born player in the NBA. Lamar Odom may be the best player today who has never made an All-Star team. And Ron Artest is… Ron Artest. He’s fun. He’s crazy. He’s unpredictable. Who wouldn’t want to watch Ron Artest?
On the Celtics, we have Paul Pierce, who will go down as one of the best players the Celtics ever had. Kevin Garnett is rejuvenated and his intensity is unparalleled. Ray Allen has one of the sweetest shots ever. We’re seeing a new star in Rajon Rondo. And Rasheed Wallace may counter Ron Artest in terms of being fun, crazy, and unpredictable.
And we know the storylines. Boston is going after its 18th banner. The Lakers are trying to go after their 16th. Phil Jackson may bolt whether or not he gets his 11th ring as coach. Kobe Bryant wants to cement his legacy by winning his 5th ring (ahead of Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan) and by beating the Boston Celtics. Kevin Garnett guaranteed back-to-back titles for the Celtics. And while most of these players have won rings before, Ron Artest, Nate Robinson, and Marquis Daniels would love to taste a championship.
We’re going to get moments out of this. Two years ago, it was all too painful for Laker fans to remember Paul Pierce channeling his inner Wolverine by coming back a few minutes after being carried away by a wheelchair. There is the 24-point lead that was lost in Game 4 of that Finals. There’s the Sasha Vujacic meltdown. What moments are we going to see in this Final?
If you’re a real NBA fan, what’s to hate about this? This is becoming reminiscent of the Celtics and the Lakers that met in the ‘80s. Those two teams met three times in the Finals and we remember them fondly for their dominance in that decade. I wouldn’t mind if these two teams did the same thing for a little while.
One thing’s for sure: I’m going to be watching and enjoying this final round. We’re all witnessing a Laker team that may be great for years to come, including what could be the final chapters of Kobe Bryant’s NBA career. And we could be seeing the Celtics’ last stand with age creeping in to the core of the team. I will be sad when this is all over; a lot of us will pine for this match-up if it never happens again. So I advise everyone to enjoy this match-up while it’s in front of us. That way, we can tell the younger generation in the coming years how we witnessed some great basketball in the 2010′s the same way our elders would remind us time and again about how great the Lakers and Celtics were in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and especially the ‘80s.
Rey Moralde is the founder and editor of TheNoLookPass.Com