The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have long been considered the premier rivalry in NBA history. Starting back in the 1960s with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy constantly defeating Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, it peaked in the 1980s with Magic Johnson’s Lakers defeating Larry Bird’s Celtics for two championships in three meetings.
It was then renewed during 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals, which the teams split. But these days, it is the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers that fans everywhere look forward to most.
Since Steve Kerr took over as head coach in Golden State they have made three consecutive Finals appearances, facing LeBron James and the Cavaliers each time. The Warriors defeated them in 2015 and 2017, while Cleveland was successful in 2016.
Much like the peak years of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, every game between the Warriors and Cavs is now extremely anticipated. Ahead of their most recent meeting, Kerr compared their rivalry with the prime Lakers-Celtics years, via Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News:
“Lakers-Boston was the dominant rivalry. Our rivalry with Cleveland is the analogy of the modern NBA,” Kerr said. “It’s the same thing. You got superstars all over the floor. You’ve had three Finals meetings. You have so many games and so many people watching. It’s definitely a special feeling in the building when both teams are there.”
Likewise, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry believes this rivalry will own the current generation, though he admits it would be tough to top Lakers-Celtics:
“From a historical perspective, it’s going to be to tough to top Lakers and the Celtics and the prime of the 80’s in NBA history,” Curry said. “But we can strong arm the 21st century, and see what happens.”
What makes the Lakers-Celtics rivalry so special is that it spans so many generations. The hatred for the Celtics is so deep because it has been passed down from West to Magic to Kobe.
When the Lakers finally defeated the Celtics in 1985, they paid homage to West and Baylor in the championship celebration.
Warriors-Cavs will have a difficult time matching that standard, but there is no doubt it will go down as one of the NBA’s greatest rivalries of all-time.
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERSNATION FORUM CLUB