Thursday, June 17, 2010


To put tonight's win by the Lakers in perspective, I have to tell you that the first time I was old enough to really appreciate basketball, watching the NBA finals with Pop, I watched this:

The outcome was another Laker loss to the hated Celtics, and in the last seconds of a game 7, no less.

1972's championship run, including a record 33 game winning streak, went some ways in the healing process, it was great to see Jerry West finally get a championship ring. But as satisfying as it was to beat the Knicks, they weren't the Celtics.

Then in 1984, I thought the Lakers would have a great chance to avenge all those losses against the Celtics, but again, somehow the Bostonian prevailed, in a heartbreaking 7 games, again.

In 1985, led by a 38 year old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, the Lakers finally beat the Celtics in the finals, making me very happy. Finally, we had beat the Celtics. Winning again in 1987 against Boston was sweet as well. Put to bed the meme that LA couldn't beat the Celtics.

Fast forward to 2007-2008. The Lakers had struggled following the loss of Shaq, half of the threepeat tandem along with Kobe Bryant. Lacking the right big man in the middle, the Lakers had suffered for a few seasons. Pau Gasol came to the team in March and immediately had an impact. I hadn't really expected the Lakers to win the Western Conference at the start of the season, I really thought the Spurs would take it again, but Pau Gasol gave them a fighting chance. Meanwhile, the Celtics were dominating the East with their big three. As the Lakers proceeded through the finals, I was worried, because I didn't think that the Lakers had enough time together as a unit to beat the Celtics and I was right, they lost in six games. I watched the whole brutal final loss of 39 points.

Given all that history, I had a lot invested in this series. As it came down to a seventh game, I was also keenly aware that the Lakers had never won a seventh game against Boston. When they got behind by 13 points, I admit that I was so upset I turned the game off for a few minutes. But they came charging back, despite shooting horribly the whole game, both from the floor and from the free throw line. They had played clutch defense the whole game, and that had kept it close. In the fourth quarter, Kobe willed the whole team forward as the chiseled out a small lead, clamped down and won the game. This really exorcises the demons, a seventh game victory against the hated Celtics, with the Lakers being the tougher, more defensive minded, willful team, reversing roles long assumed. Team sports don't get any better than this.

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