Los Angeles Lakers: 131-92

Why the Lakers and their fans need Boston in the Finals

May, 21, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
As the Eastern and Western Conference Finals sit at 2-0 leads for the Celtics and Lakers respectively, there is already a buzz building in L.A. about a clash between old rivals. Staples Center patrons were chanting "We want Boston!" in the closing minutes of a 124-112 Game 2 win over the Phoenix Suns (reflecting the desires expressed in a poll conducted a few days earlier). ESPNLA.com's Arash Markazi noted how the Lakers won't come right out and say it, but their wishes jibe with their fan base's. (For that matter, high fives would by slapped by David Stern, the advertising folks and everyone with a stake of any kind in the Finals. Lakers-Celtics pretty much does nobody wrong.)

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
You may think you do, little man.
But you actually don't.

Why the fierce local desire for Lakers-Celtics?

You could cite the obvious, a rich history of hatred going back to 1959, the first in a painfully cruel series of Finals losses at the hands of Boston. Should the current path carry forth without a hiccup, bet the house on a non-stop barrage of retrospectives reminding us how far back these skirmishes go. But here's the thing. While the history certainly matters, there's also an early-30's-and-younger generation of Lakers fans that, hand on the bible, would admit they don't really know what this rivalry's about.

Memories create rivalries, and for these fans, there's little to draw on with the Showtime battles, much less the stinging defeats to Red's army. Their hatred of Boston is more institutionalized than sincere. It's like being seventh generation Hatfield. You hate that damn McCoy family, but more from the mind than the heart.

As a St. Louis transplant who moved to L.A. in 1990 and began feverishly rooting for the Lakers a few years later, I have an unfortunate firsthand knowledge of this reality. As much as I wanted to get geeked for a showdown with the Celtics, the process felt labored and inorganic. The Celtics I knew spent two decades as a largely mediocre and irrelevant team before acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. By comparison, the Cardinals bolted to Arizona in 1985, but to this day, even as an NFL orphan, I still hate the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, rival teams from the old NFC East division. Even without a dog in the fight, I just do. What you really know stays with you forever, and enthusiasm for what you don't know is difficult to manufacture.

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2