Yes. You read that headline right. The two teams that met in this year's NBA finals aren't rivals. They used to be.
The rivalry saw the Lakers and Celtics meet 7 times between 1959 and 1969 and 3 times in the 1980's. The last time they met before 2008 was just over 20 years ago. Bird, Magic, Kareem and company are all gone. How does that make them rivals now?
Rivalries require playing each other, something the two teams haven't done much of in the past 20 years unless it was a regular season game. We all love a regular season NBA game, right?
The so-called phenomenon that was this year's finals resembles what happened with the Yankees and Red Sox at the beginning of the decade. No one outside of the two team's fans heard much about that rivalry until those teams met in AL championship spawning the Sox's amazing come-from-behind series victory. We haven't seen the two teams meet in the playoffs since, although that rivalry is renewed through division races.
The Lakers and Celtics aren't in the same conference. Because rivalries should always encompass the playoffs, or at least playoff implications, I'm not quite ready to say it's a rivalry renewed.
With that said, I would like to see more modern NBA rivalries around the league. I think we saw some great ones earlier this decade, but as they've died, I hope that groundwork was laid this season for new ones in the future. Here are some of the recent genuine rivalries I can remember from the league, as well as my possibilities for new ones to come.
Lakers v. Kings- The memory of this rivalry has received even more heat in light of the Donaghy scandal. Granted the Lakers dominated this rivalry, (just like the Celtics did the Lakers in the 1960s) every time these teams met in recent playoff series, you could tell they flat out just didn't like each other as soon as they stepped on the court. Those are some of the most physical games my recent memory holds.
Pistons v. Pacers- The brawl at the palace. Enough said, although I'll say more. This rivalry goes way beyond that night as these teams had a great Eastern Conference rivalry throughout the playoffs earlier in the decade.
Lakers v. Spurs- This rivalry was one that got some play in this year's playoffs. The multiple times these teams have met in the Western Conference playoffs makes it a good grudge to witness. Derek Fisher's famous ".4" shot adds some nostalgia.
Cavaliers v. Wizards- Also part of 2008, this is a little bit of a stretch and maybe should have been put with the future rivalries. None-the-less, these teams have had great playoffs series in recent years. The most notable would probably include King James' splitting defenders for a last second bucket and a win. Some might still think he's walking today.
Spurs v. Mavericks v. Rockets- The Texas three step. Maybe another stretch but it seems the series we've seen in recent playoffs between these teams have the feel of a rivalry with the location factor. Most notable would be Dallas v. San Antonio in the Western Conference finals.
Celtics v. Pistons- Both of these teams are clearly the top two in the east. Conference finals future match-ups are certainly a possibility, but we'll have to see how Joe Dumars revamps until we know for sure.
Rockets v. Jazz- This one has already begun and even has some similarities with the Cleveland v. Washington rivalry. McGrady needs to get Houston over the hump to complete this rivalry, that is, unless he ends up in Detroit.
Celtics v. Cavaliers- Same scenario as Detroit, except adding the most exciting player in the game to watch. A more suitable name for this rivalry would be James v. Celtics.
Lakers v. Celtics- Yes. It is a possibility. Although the teams aren't rivals now, they are two of the best teams in the league right now. Although repetitive, I would honestly embrace the entire thing. In order for that to happen, both teams have to claim supremacy of their conference. I think Boston will be okay with that, but I'm not sure about L.A.
Feel free to list your recent memories of NBA rivalries, as well as aspirations for future rivalries.
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