The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics have provided the NBA with its’ oldest and most famous rivalry for nearly 60 years. However, over the past few seasons, the historic rivalry has lost the luster it once had due to the lack of meaningful games played between the two sides.
The Lakers and the Celtics haven’t met in the Finals since 2010, when LA bested Boston’s “Big Three” in a seven-game series to give Kobe Bryant his fifth and final ring. Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball were 12 years old, and Luke Walton and Metta World Peace were still players.
Since then, the two teams have met 14 times in the regular season. While the Lakers have come out on top eight out of those 14 times, the Celtics have won three of their last five matchups with LA and are favorites going into Wednesday’s game.
This will mark Ball’s first regular season game against the Celtics as a member of the Lakers, and as a SoCal native, Ball knows all about the rich history between the two teams.
“Lakers and Celtics, everyone knows about that rivalry,” Ball said following practice on Monday. “Bird and Magic, one of the best rivalries ever.”
Ball had the chance to play the Celtics earlier this year during Las Vegas Summer League, where he recorded his now famous 11-point, 11-assist and 11-rebound triple-double, but the Lakers were unable to overcome Boston’s young scoring tandem, featuring No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum and former No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown.
Despite the result for the Lakers, that game was the most viewed Summer League game ever, drawing over 1.1 million viewers, according to Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters. It was also the first time tickets sold out at the Thomas and Mack center during the NBA’s summer exhibition run.
Could this be the beginning of a new era of the Lakers-Cetlics rivalry? President of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johsnon seems to think so.
“So we got young talent; they have young talent,” Johnson told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “They’ve got a little bit more with Horford and Hayward, the veterans who are stars, especially Hayward. And then hopefully next summer we can add something to our roster. So I think it’s going to come together.”
“We could see them in The Finals sometime,” Johnson added.
The Celtics are a lot closer to contending than the Lakers are, despite starting their rebuild the same year the Lakers did. In 2014, the Lakers and the Celtics both missed out on postseason basketball, marking the first time since 1994 neither team was in the playoffs. It would also mark the first time the two teams were in the NBA draft lottery since then, but it would be far from the last.
Starting with Julius Randle and Marcus Smart in 2014, the Lakers and the Celtics have picked after each other in three of the last four drafts.
- 2014: Marcus Smart (6), Julius Randle (7)
- 2015: D’Angelo Russell (2), Terry Rozier (16)
- 2016: Brandon Ingram (2), Jaylen Brown (3)
- 2017: Lonzo Ball (2), Jayson Tatum (3)
It’s for this reason these players will be tied to each other for the rest of their careers. What if the Celtics took Randle instead of Smart? What if Brown and Taytum end of being a better duo than Ball and Ingram down the line?
These are the narratives that make a rivalry worth tuning in for, and it could heat up even more next summer. LeBron James has been rumored to have an eye on the Lakers, with rumors heating up this summer. You know, just like KD did. And DeMAr DeRozan. And most recently, Paul George.
In the event James does decide to leave Cleveland to play out the rest of his career under the sunshine of Los Angeles, he will also bring the baggage that comes with him, which includes a rivalry with his former teammate Kyrie Irving, who also happens to be the Celtics’ new point guard.
Whatever the case may be, a rivalry that was on the verge of becoming irrelevant is on the cusp of a renaissance led by the team’s young stars. Should both teams continue to head in the right direction, it won’t be long before we see “Beat LA” signs in TD Garden once again.