NBA Rivalries: LA Lakers Vs Boston Celtics

There are a lot of famous rivalries between teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA), but none are quite as famous as the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

These two NBA teams have one of the fiercest rivalries in NBA history, stretching across history since the late 1950s – and it’s still alive and kicking today. These two iconic teams have met in the finals a record-breaking 12 times and each time, the NBA Finals Odds are often even.

So, let’s take a look at the history of this infamous rivalry, and what it means for the NBA predictions 2023.

1959: The Start Of The Rivalry

Back in the 1950s, the LA Lakers were then known as the Minneapolis Lakers and they were the first NBA dynasty with a ton of different records and titles behind them. That all changed in 1959 when the Lakers came up against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals – and were swept in their first final loss.

The loss was devastating for the Lakers. The team soon relocated to Los Angeles in 1960, and the Boston Celtics went on to win 8 straight titles and became an NBA dynasty themselves.

1960s: NBA Finals

The rivalry between the now LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics ran through the entire decade of the 1960s as both teams met in the NBA Finals in six different years – and each time, the Celtics sent the Lakers home defeated.

But a personal rivalry between the two teams did not start until 1968 when the Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain was an amazing center position basketball player and used to be friends with the Celtic’s Bill Russell, but after Chamberlain joined the Lakers, their relationship deteriorated.

This was the first personal rivalry between two players in each respective team – but definitely not the last.

1980s: Bird vs Johnson

The LA Lakers and Boston Celtics would not meet again in an NBA final until the 1980s, when another personal rivalry took things to the next level. This time, the personal rivalry was between Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers, and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics.

Their personal rivalry began during college, when Johnson led Michigan State to the championship game of the NCAA, facing Indiana State University led by Larry Bird. Michigan State won what would later be known as the most watched college basketball game in history.

This rivalry transferred when the two players started their professional careers and found themselves in two teams already with a rivalry of their own.

The LA Lakers proved themselves to be a threat after winning the 1980 NBA Finals – but the Celtics would take the title back the very next year.

The two teams finally had their rematch in the 1984 NBA finals in one of the most grueling basketball games in the series. To say that things got heated would be an understatement – there was physical aggression between both teams after a takedown from Kevan McHale against the Laker Kurt Rambis, and Bird lost his temper with his own teammates and reportedly called them ‘sissies’. It didn’t help that the arena was un-airconditioned and seriously hot. Finally, the Celtics won and kept onto their winning streak against the Lakers.

But all things must come to an end.

In 1985, it was the Lakers who won the NBA Final against the Celtics, only for the Celtics to rebound the very next year. In 1987, the NBA Final was taken to a tiebreaker where the Lakers once again, defeated the Celtics.

During the 1980s, the rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics was incredibly topical and popular as both teams struggled relentlessly for the NBA title again and again. Johnson and Bird were both incredible players who completely changed the game, and both wanted to prove their skill over the other. Race was also a factor in the popularity of this rivalry, as black basketball fans in Boston would cheer for the Lakers over the white-majority home team of the Celtics (at least, that’s what Magic Johnson says).

This meant that national attention was brought to the NBA by the rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers.

2008: Rivalry Renewed

After the 80s, the rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers died down for some time. Neither team faced the other in the NBA finals for nearly 20 years – until 2008, when a rematch at the NBA finals sparked the rivalry once more.

A confrontation between LA Lakers player Phil Jackson and Celtic’s player Paul Pierce led to the rivalry increasing and coming to a head in the 2010 NBA Finals. The Lakers won – and this would be the final NBA Final rematch between the two teams to date.

Despite this, the rivalry continued throughout the 2010s and into the 2020s. Both teams go back and forth with their victories against each other in minor games, and each team is waiting for the next NBA Final rematch – whenever that may be.

Final Thoughts

The rivalry between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics is famous for many reasons. They have a long history against each other, with personal rivalries fanning the flames, and even today, there is no clear victor over the other.