Since the 1948 National Basketball Association season, the Celtics and Lakers have faced each other 359 times in regular season games and in the NBA Finals through the 2017 season. Many fans know this as the greatest rivalry in NBA history.
The rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers will be remembered by many people as the most memorable in sports history. To start off, the Boston Celtics have won 200 of the 359 times they've met the L.A Lakers, and lost 159 of them. The two teams have met 12 times in the NBA Finals with the Celtics winning 9. During the rivalry, Bill Russell from the Celtics, and Wilt Chamberlain from the Lakers broke their relationship because Russell accused Chamberlain of faking his injury in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals. After that happened, they didn't speak for 20 years. However, when Chamberlain died, Russell was the second person Chamberlain wanted informed.
The Celtics and Lakers were featured in every NBA Finals matchup during the 80's. The Celtics dominated during the 1960s and 1970s, but after their 1987 loss, they wouldn't come back until 2008. On the other hand, the Lakers would win again in 1988 and dominate the early 2000 season, with star players Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. The big rivalry was renewed in 2008 with Boston's "Big Three" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen taking on Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. Eventually, the Celtics won and ended their 21-year title drought. The Celtics beat the Lakers in six games. The two would meet again in 2010, but this time it would be the Lakers who would take the title back to L.A.
The start of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry didn't go so well. During the 1956 NBA draft, the Celtics had the third pick, behind the Rochester Royals and Atlanta Hawks. Celtics coach, Red Auerbach, managed to get the right to host revenue-producing Ice Capades for the Royals, moving up one pick in the draft. Choosing first, the Atlanta Hawks selected Bill Russell but with the plan to trade him for high-scoring center, Ed Macauley, from the Celtics. Red Auerbach agreed to trade Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan, also from the Celtics, for Bill Russell. In the same draft, the Celtics selected Tommy Heinsohn and K.C. Jones, teammates of Russell from San Francisco University.
Before the 1956 draft, Bob Cousy from the Celtics and Jerry West from the Lakers were already really big rivals. A couple of years later, Bill Russell from the Celtics, and Wilt Chamberlain from the Lakers became the big rivalry. It all had to end in the NBA Finals. The teams faced each other seven times from 1959 to 1969. The Celtics won all seven NBA Finals with three of them, ‘66, '67 and '69, going to the full seven games,
Off the court, with segregation going on during that time, it was really hard for Bill Russell to play because of the hate from racist white people. Russell experienced Boston's racism during his time every day. Adding to that, vandals broke into Russell's house and painted the n-word on his walls.
The rivalry wouldn't become noticeable again until Irvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird signed to play in the NBA. Before they signed, they faced off at the NCAA Finals. Magic played for the Michigan State Spartans and Bird played for the Indiana State Sycamores. At the end, the Spartans won that contest, 75 to 64. Magic scored 24 points and Bird scored 19 points. It was one of the worst games Bird played in his basketball career. Moving on from college basketball, Bird and Johnson knew they would not build a relationship during their NBA careers. The first time Bird and Johnson faced off in the finals was in 1984. The Celtics won the hard-fought seven games, following a legendary Game 5 where he dropped 34 points, earning himself the 1984 finals MVP award. The Lakers regouped to claim the title in '85, being the only team to win a championship at the unfriendly Boston Garden. The two would, for the final time, faceoff in the 1987 Finals. It was a hard battle, but it was Johnson who would take the title back home to L.A. The moment that will never be forgotten occurred when Magic sunk a junior skyhook for the game-winning shot in Game 4. The two teams wound not meet in the NBA Finals again until 2008. People think that the Bird-Johnson years were the NBA's Golden Age. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were one of the NBA's best rivalries, but off court both became close friends.
The teams have had big showdowns, but another rivalry was about to begin. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Derick Fisher of the Lakers took on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen of the Celtics in the 2008 Finals. Led by Boston's "Big Three", the Celtics beat the Lakers to win the Finals. They faced off again in the 2010 Finals with the Lakers having an extra player, Ron Artest. This time, it was the Lakers who would bring the title back home. But all of the men turned out to be friends following the Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics will always be remembered for their rivalry. These two teams are immortalized for their memorable games largely because of the efforts of Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, and Jerry West. These teams will always be known as the Greatest Rivalry of All Time.
[Sources: Rolling Stone; TIME; NY Daily News]