Sunday, 2 October 2011
LEGACY OF TRADITION
The God's of Basketball.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
“It's a Sexy Match up”. -Kobe Bryant
“We Never Take These Moments for Granted”.-Paul Pierce
So Dallas and Miami may have taken care of the NBA's two most famous franchises last season and created a new match-up for a new generation, but one thing they can't take from the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers is their tradition and legacy. Back in 2008 the Lakers and Celtics took over half a century of storied rivalry and got it back on for two finals over three years. This was the big ticket like Kevin Garnett, starring two teams who took two 'chips out of each other. Even today some may call it boring but isn't this the match up everybody wants to see? Well… kind of.
Look back to 2008 and this match up of the moment. The Lakers and the Celtics, two of the associations most recognizable and storied franchises. Two powerhouses, evenly matched and going at it game after game. There was no David in this story, just two Goliaths’. The anticipation was mouth watering; however over the last couple of years one match-up has rivalled the instant vintage of a Lakers, Celtics classic. This is the potential head to head match up between Kobe Bryant and the other best player in the league; LeBron James. This is what everyone expected to see this June. The leagues two best all-round players, recent MVP's and dual ‘SLAM Presents’ cover stars duking it out. In the blue corner, Kobe, the best since M.J., holding more in experience, skill and accomplishment. In the red corner, LeBron, the present and future, the all-round player and phenom. A player who has already accomplished so much and is set to achieve so much more. After all the hype however alas there are no games scheduled in STAPLES this year, neither were there any 'Most Valuable Puppets' final commercials airing. The ultimate, winner takes all battle for the best player in the NBA again will have to wait.
One thing us die-hard NBA fans can't wait for is another Lakers/Celtics bout. The Celtics took the Lakers in 2008, but two years and a L.A. championship against Orlando later in 2010 Kobe Bryant had the chance to claim his status as the greatest in the NBA. Back then before he had his chance to beat the best player in the league he had to win it all against the best team. The history speaks for itself. Boston have 17 titles to L.A.'s 15. They’ve beaten the Lakers 9 times in the finals. L.A. had beaten Boston twice, but the third time was the charm. Historically there was so much more to prove in 2010. This then all changed as Kobe and the Lakers took it within one game of tieing the all-time series, imagine if they could do it again. Boston did not beat L.A. for a tenth time, history will all come down to the next match-up. Now who wants to see that.
Statistically and mentally speaking Boston have the upper hand, they were a sprinkle of talcum powder away from slapping the Lakers hard with this fact, until the boys from Hollywood took their hands and rewrote history's script. The Lakers have suffered many a heartbreak by Boston only to be left green with Celtic envy at what they've achieved in relation to their rivals, but things are looking more evenly matched these days. The Lakers have endured it all, from celebratory balloons falling on an empty, solemn, Forum court to Kobe Bryant sombrely walking off the Celtics parquet floor in 2008 with green & white ticker tape falling around him. It's moments like that when all a beaten opponent can do is keep their head down, staring at the famous wood that has been the bane of many opposing teams postseason lives. Kobe's long walk was similar to Magic's walk off the Forum floor when Jordan and the Bulls stopped the ‘Show’ before it's time at the start of the 90’s. These so called 'walks of shame' may be an NBA players lowest moment but if you look deeper than that it's also the moment a competitor like Kobe or Magic renew their focus and regroup. A focus that then turns a walking Kobe into a jubilant running and jumping champion in the 2010 rematch that took the game, set and, match advantage back to L.A.'s court.
Before that however in 2009-one year removed from losing on his rival’s court-Kobe was jumping up and down in jubilation on another opposing team’s floor. Reclaiming the championship after seven, long, Shaq-less years against Orlando was real sweet, but like Nas ‘It Aint Hard to Tell’ that Kobe was still troubled by the Boston loss in '08. As were the rest of the Lake show. It's almost felt like the defending champions wouldn't really feel like they’ve reclaimed their crown fully unless they took it off the team that took it off them last. That's the real 'chip on the Lakers shoulder. Sure the Magic were ans still are an enthralling team but fans were craving ‘Lakers, Celtics 2’. The sequel that everyone really wanted to see. It's like when Muhammad Ali heard the infamous Howard Cossell commentary, 'Down goes Fraizer, DOWN GOES FRAIZER!' Ali knew that even though he would end up the champ, there would still be a score left to settle that would have to wait. This was the same for the Lakers after they won in 2009. Their time to really win was in 2010 and boy did they.
The Celtics had something to prove as well. They needed to prove that their first championship was not merely a one off. In the same year the Lakers cast a spell on the Magic, the Celtics had no tricks left in their bag as they fell in the playoffs much earlier than expected. Their defence of their championship left a lot to be desired. They displayed more the age of a veteran than the heart of a champion. Also, the Celtics still wanted to be considered as the best team in the league, so they needed to show everyone that they could beat a Laker team that battle-tested from previous losses had now won a championship. The Lakers had the advantage there but the Celtics wanted to show the league that it wasn't happening in their house. Whichever team would win this series would start to make their stamp on establishing their own dynasty in this league.
Sure watching 'The Mamba' and 'The King' go at it for seven games would of made some classic NBA playoff moments. Two evenly matched players with similar games, guarding each other and going basket for basket, dunk for dunk. That would of been something special, but that didn't mean that the Celtics/Lakers series of the second decade of the new millennium wasn't any less special. The Lakers, Celtics rivalry has resulted in many defining moments in NBA history and this series undoubtedly added more memories to the vault and more fuel to the fire of this traditional, heated rivalry.
It's not just the fans that wanted it. Both teams relish this match-up too. Phil Jackson expressed to Paul Pierce in the 2009 off-season how he wanted him to lead his Celtics back to the finals again so they could face off again, he got his wish a year before his retirement as well as his 10Th ring. It was the match-up to see who really was the real champion. In 2010 both teams were better than they were the last time they met in '08. They both had a championship under their belt, they were both seasoned and closer as units and they both were dominant to the point were it looked too easy for them. Think about it both teams at times managed to coast through the season and playoffs in what looked like second gear. Now as both teams were back were they wanted to be. It was time for both teams to take one, hard stare at each other, then put the foot down.
Boy did they put their foot down too. Both teams went at it for the full seven games, taking blood, sweat, tears and years off, not to mention each others home-court advantage. There was nothing between these two greats in this epic series, except a hard-fought ugly game 7 which showed just how competitive and beautiful this game really is. From the eccentricities of Ron Artest and Rasheed Wallace to the smooth flowing games of Lamar Odom and Ray Allen and K.G.'s growls to Gasol's stares and Pierce's passion to Kobe's never say die attitude everyone brought their A game, for a first-grade series to report on. The 2010 NBA Finals went down as one of the best moments to register in basketball history. Now who wants to see these two hall Of Fame teams do it again?
Sure Boston's window may be getting smaller as their team is getting older but trust they are more wiser too. Plus the fourth Beatle of Rajon Rondo has taken this big-three up a notch with a breath of young fresh air, which should keep the window of opportunity open for longer. Now the Lakers may have been embarrassed and dismantled by last years champion Dallas, but this is no part two to the 'death of a dynasty' that critics are calling time on. Phil Jackson may be gone, but the best player in the league today and the second best of all time is here with, the best European player Pau Gasol and their Hollywood squad. Showtime is still very much on, and Celtic pride is the only thing that can dampen the Lakers accomplishments.
It's all about the two greatest franchise in league history. The tension. The rivalry. Bird and Kareem squaring off. Wilt and Russell going at it. Offence versus defence. Showtime versus hard work. It's about Magic’s baby hook. It's about Celtic fans rushing the floor as soon as the buzzer sounds. It's the rings on Bill Russell’s fingers compared to the frustration on Jerry West's face. It's the Forum and the Garden. It's the fans. The celebrities turning up in Los Angeles to add shine and the regular folks in Boston driving around the Lakers hotel room at 3am, keeping the players awake all night.
It’s Los Angeles versus Boston. Hollywood versus blue collar. ‘Beat L.A.’ versus a ‘Boston Massacre’. It's all about Kobe or Pierce. Gasol or Garnett. It's all about players like Bynum and Odom or Allen and Rondo. Guys all over the floor who can make an impact and difference and change the tone of a series. It's about two acclaimed teams stacked from 1-15. Bench for bench. Burn for burn. It's two foes going at it. Possession for possession. Play for play. Bucket for bucket. Game for game. It's all about the Larry O'Brien trophy. It's all about now. Sure this rivalry took a year off but you must believe these two teams will be back to do battle with each other. In NBA history they always come back, they always do. These two teams are married to each other for better or worse in a matrimony of history, legacy and tradition. Divorce yourself from last year and engage yourself with their partnership because your cordially invited to the next ceremony between the masters. Now who's got the rings?