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Hate has made rivalry great

The current Lakers may not dislike the Celtics as much, but in the '80s, the teams agreed on only one thing: They couldn't stand each other.

December 25, 2008|Broderick Turner

They are the standard-bearers of the NBA, the two teams with the most history in the league and the most championships.

And perhaps because of that, the contempt the Lakers and Boston Celtics long had for the other was palpable.

It started in the late '50s and stretched into the '60s and then again into the '80s, when the Lakers and Celtics met 10 times for the NBA championship.

The rivalry was renewed in June, when the Lakers and Celtics met in the NBA Finals for the 11th time, with Boston coming out on top for the ninth time.

Both teams remain the NBA's marquee teams, a big reason why the Lakers and Celtics will meet for the first time this season today on Christmas at Staples Center.

Even though the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals, there doesn't appear to be the same dislike toward the Celtics by the current Lakers team.

However, during the '80s, the series between the Lakers, with Magic Johnson, and Celtics, led by Larry Bird, took on a totally different tone as they met in the Finals three times.

"We just despised them and they probably despised us," said former Lakers guard Byron Scott, now the coach of the New Orleans Hornets.

Well, a former Celtic can answer that.

"If I saw one of those guys on fire and I had a glass of water, I would have drank the water before I would put it on them," said Cedric Maxwell, a forward on the '80s Celtics and now the team's radio analyst.

"It was just a healthy dislike both teams had for each other."

The games were always intense and heated, whether it was the regular season or the NBA Finals.

"I always looked forward to playing them," Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said. "They were always good games. I don't know if it would get any better than that. Two teams, the intense rivalry, the history that the two organizations had, the success of the teams, the talent level, the matchups.

"I don't know if you'll ever see it like that again."

Scott remembered when the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the 1984 Finals and were about to play in Boston in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals.

"I'll never forget Larry Bird saying it's the Lakers and the Celtics and the Celtics are supposed to win, because 'We always win, we always beat the Lakers,' " Scott said.

Bird actually was right.

The Celtics had whipped up on the Lakers eight times in a row (including Minneapolis) for the NBA crown.

"He was going back to all the days, when they would beat the Jerry West Lakers, the Wilt Chamberlain Lakers," Scott said. "So we had that monkey on our back. But that statement right there made us like, 'Oh no. No more.' "

That wasn't all that upset Scott.

He recalled how Boston Celtics executive Red Auerbach took a shot at Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"Red said in the papers: 'The reason we can beat the Lakers is because we don't have to double Kareem,' " Scott recalled.

It proved to be true in Game 1, when Abdul-Jabbar, then 38, was outplayed in his matchup against Robert Parish in a game Boston won, 148-114, in what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre.

But Game 2 was a different story.

Abdul-Jabbar scored 30 points, grabbled 17 rebounds, handed out eight assists and blocked three shots in a Lakers win.

He went on to average 30 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in the four Lakers victories, which earned Abdul-Jabbar the Finals' most-valuable-player award, as the Lakers beat the Celtics in six games.

"When the series was over, Kareem said, 'I guess they threw dirt on my face a little too early,' " Scott said. "I remember that like yesterday.

"And that's why I always want the Lakers to beat the Celtics. No, I don't like the Celtics -- still."


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