Lakers-Celtics rivalry one for the Millennium

Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce were just 9 and 10 years old, respectively, when Earvin “Magic” Johnson produced a memorable shot in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals at the Boston Garden — en route to the Lakers’ third championship that decade.   
    With six seconds left, the trademark Kareem skyhook sailed over Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and found its way into the basket. Swish, nothing but net. Twenty-one years later, Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will face Pierce and the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the best-of-seven NBA Finals tonight at the new Boston Garden at 5:30 p.m. on ABC.
    Macky Gonzalez, a senior biology major from Northern California, gave reason to believe the hate in the rivalry still exists. “I am a huge Celtics fan and, of course, I want the Celtics. Any team except the Lakers.”
    Considered one of the greatest sporting rivalries dating back to the 1960s, the Lakers will try to win their 15th title while the Celtics are trying win No. 17 in 23 attempts. The meeting will be the 10th in the rivalry, with Boston leading the all-time series, 8-2. The Lakers have not been to the Finals since 2004, while the Celtics saw a 21-year absence. 
    Prior to the 2007-08 season, there were trade rumors about Bryant and Pierce going to separate teams. But the season welcomed new additions to both teams that dramatically altered the dynamics.
    During the regular season match-ups, the Celtics defeated the Lakers in both games but L.A. did not have center Pau Gasol, who was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies in February. Meanwhile, All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were traded to the Celtics in separate deals.
    The two storied franchises also posted the best regular season record in their respective conferences.  The Celtics will have the home-court advantage in the series after posting a league-best 66-16 record.  The Lakers won the West with a 57-25 mark.
    The series also is expected to boost Finals ratings, which have been sagging in recent years.
    “It is good for the NBA as far as generating more money and attracting a larger fan base,” said Joe McEwen, a physics graduate student who favors the Celtics.
    Brandon Nevens, a junior business finance major disagrees, being a Lakers fan. “They [the Lakers] will take it in Game 7. I think it is a much better rivalry because of the history of it, with Magic and [Larry] Bird going at it in the 80s.”
    Aside from the championship aspect, this series has a lot of history at stake for certain players and coaches.
    If the Lakers win, Bryant would prove that he is capable of winning a championship without Shaquille O’Neal, who was named the Finals Most Valuable Player for the last three Lakers championship teams. Ironically, Phil Jackson could collect his 10th championship and surpass former Celtics head coach Red Auerbach for the most titles won by a coach.
    “It will be a good accomplishment for Phil because he deserves it,” said Nevens.
    To keep Auerbach on top of the list, the Celtics could deny Jackson’s 10th ring and would add another record championship banner to the Garden, while providing Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge some relief in knowing his acquisitions were of championship caliber and not just hype.
    In the end, it will come down to whether Bryant, known as “The Black Mamba,” will attack or Pierce, nicknamed “The Truth,” will prevail.

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