Jerry West and Elgin Baylor vs. Bill Russell and John Havlicek. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom vs. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo. All of these battles are legendary ones in the history of the longstanding rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
If rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell has his way, basketball historians will be adding his name to that list before his career is over.
"I want to keep the rivalry going, and get some wins out of it," Russell told the media after the Lakers 107-100 loss to the Celtics (via Lakers Nation).
While Russell sounded like he respected the rivalry, Lakers head coach (himself a former "Showtime" era shooting guard who has now been a part of the rivalry as both a player and a coach) Byron Scott was less than impressed with his young players' grasp of the history between the two teams.
Byron on his young players viewing Lakers/Celtics: "I don't think they understand the magnitude of this rivalry."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 4, 2016
Whether it had anything to do with his understanding of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry is (technically) a matter of debate, but Russell didn't have his strongest night of the season against Boston. The rookie struggled against he Celtics aggressive defense, scoring just eight points on 4-14 shooting and committing six turnovers.
However, much like Kobe did in the Lakers' pivotal game seven against the Celtics in 2010, Russell was able to find a way to contribute despite his poor shooting, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing six assists. The Lakers still have a long way to go before playing in a game of that magnitude, but Russell finding other ways to help the team when he struggles to score is an important skill to develop.
The Celtics are a lot better than the Lakers right now, currently sitting in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff seeding hunt while the Lakers have the second-worst record in the NBA. However, the Celtics boast several young players that promise to leave them competitive for the next several years at least.
Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson both have chips on their shoulder from being selected after Celtics' guard Marcus Smart in the 2015 NBA Draft, and it's easy to envision Russell having battles with the defensive specialist as well. Both teams (should the Lakers retain their 2016 first rounder after the lottery) have incoming lottery picks, with the Celtics owning the Brooklyn Nets' first rounder as a result of the Garnett-Pierce trade.
If all of that young talent is supplemented by veteran signings and grows as both teams hope, Russell's wish for a reignited rivalry could be granted sooner than most think.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.