The East versus the West: Celtics take on the Lakers. Two Number One seeds. Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson: old school. Kobe Bryant versus Kevin Garnett and company: new school. This will be the 11th time these franchises are set to clash on the court. The Celtics own the Lakers in championship play with an 8-2 record. However, the Lakers won the last two in 1985 and 1987. In total championships, it is much closer: Boston has an NBA-high 16 titles and the Lakers are snaking in with 14 (9 in L.A and 5 in Minneapolis).
“Sure, there is history between the Celtics and Lakers. But get ready for more history to be made. We are about to see the most anticipated NBA Finals in at least a decade,” wrote Michele Tafoya in an email.
She should know, she’s been covering the sport for some time as a sideline reporter and holds her own against the behemoths of the NBA. Tafoya has been into sports broadcasting with CBS since 1994 and joined ESPN in 2000. You may also recognize her name from Monday Night Football and her voice from co-hosting ESPN’s Mike Tirico’s radio show.
The history Tafoya is referring to is splattered all over the Internet. All over the NBA web site. It’s smudged on sports pages on bathroom floors across the country. Everyone and their sister is writing about this, including me. ESPN continues to play games from “The Greatest Rivalry” to ever hit the NBA. In a Sports Illustrated story written by Jack McCallum, Lakers Magic Johnson himself – a big part of reviving the rivalry, is quoted as saying, “I think this is what America wants to see.”
Is it? Aberdeen native Jai Lewis (the George Mason University star from the Cinderella team of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, who has now taken his game global and is playing professional hoops in Israel) probably wouldn’t have picked these two teams to represent in the Finals but he’s still into it.
“[I] watch to see who makes the best plays; I just like to watch a good game of basketball.” Jai said. We know he’s got game and he’s hooked on this sport.
Still, how can you help but not get reeled in with all the story lines? These two teams have been bringing it since 1959 with names like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis and Boston claimed it quick. When the 60s rolled around and the Lakers moved to LA, the seeds of contention for this rivalry grew. These two teams met up six times and Boston came away the victor, each and every time.
Then again in the 80s when the NBA was floundering, in came Boston’s Larry Bird and Los Angeles’ Magic Johnson to breathe new venom into the game and reinvigorate the past. If you know nothing about basketball, you’ve at least heard of their names. Magic and Larry Bird transcend the sport.
So the new school of players are peering into the past (as well as so many Americans) and hoping to ink a new chapter. Can the league’s MVP Kobe Bryant be stopped? Will Boston’s Ray Allen stay in the zone as he has struggled in much of the post-season? Will Boston’s Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce break through and claim their first championship? Can Derek Fisher feed Bryant the ball enough to stop the Celtics from getting one more?
With the first game taking off tonight in Boston, only time will tell. But one thing is certain in sports, the past always plays. And one more thing: “When you watch Kobe Bryant, keep in mind that you are watching one of the best to ever suit up in the NBA. When you watch Kevin Garnett, realize that you are witnessing one of the most passionate athletes in all of pro sports. So soak it in and enjoy every moment of these NBA Finals,” noted Tafoya. Even non-NBA fans have reason to tune in; especially when Free NBA picks are soon approaching.
So, who are you planning on rooting for?