The Lakers-Celtics rivalry was renewed in the 1980s, with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson re-kindling an individual rivalry that originated during the 1979 NCAA National Championship Game. Larry Bird was part of an imposing frontcourt that featured Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, while the Lakers ushered in the “Showtime” Era with James Worthy, Michael Cooper and the captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at the twilight of his career. The Lakers and Celtics accounted for 8 of the championships during the decade, including three head-to-head meetings. Although the Lakers lost the first meeting in 1984, extending their Finals drought against Boston to an abysmal 0 for 8, they finally broke through the following year, emerging as the victors in 1985 and again in 1987.
It’s not surprising that Magic Johnson is still regarded as the greatest Laker of all-time, due in large part to his ability to beat his greatest rival twice in his career. Today, the Lakers are the defending champions and Kobe Bryant’s legacy will most definitely be affected by the outcome of this series. For those who think I’m exaggerating the importance of this rivalry, keep this in mind. Out of all the Lakers players to have their numbers retired, all of them have been involved in the Lakers-Celtics rivalries except for Gail Goodrich- and it’s no coincidence that he’s not regarded as highly as Magic, Kareem, or even James Worthy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find very many Celtic legends that didn’t play an integral part of this rivalry as well. There’s no doubt that Kobe will create even greater separation from Shaquille O’Neal by defeating the Celtics in the Finals.