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Before ESPN's Doris Burke had even finished interviewing Rajon Rondo after yet another virtuoso performance, I received a text message from a Philly friend who was gloating about the Celtics' win. I hit him back: "You're from Philly, man. How can you possibly pull for Boston?" His response: "Man, them days are gone. And I just really loathe the Lakers to unhealthy levels."
He's not alone. And this, my people, represents a significant shift in NBA fandom and, uh, hatedom.
The Celtics were the most hated NBA team of my youth, by far. Didn't matter if you lived in New York, Chicago, Philly, D.C., Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta or wherever. If you lived east of the Mississippi River, you loathed the Boston Celtics. And chances are you probably dug the Showtime Lakers, because they weren't beating your squad three or four times every season or ending its season for good in the playoffs, unlike the Celtics. Hate for the Celtics was about jealousy and the fatigue of losing.
But you know what? Both the Celtics' and Lakers' reps seem to have changed for folks in my generation -- even us east of the Mississippi. The Lakers have become the most hated team in basketball, especially for real hoops fans. The Lakers remain the overwhelming favorite for casual fans, because they're a glamorous team in a glamorous city led by a glamorous star. On the other hand, no current team is the object of as much bile and venom -- again, especially from real fans who actually care about the NBA -- as L.A. How did we get here?