Why Lakers-Celtics Is the Biggest Rivalry in the NBA

Everybody's for themselves nowadays so it shouldn't be a surprise that NBA beef is all personal and no longer about the team. It's hard to blame the players entirely. The NBA is a business and teams will trade someone if they're sh!t without hesitation.

For the few out there that believe there's no 'i' in team, there are still some big rivalries that exist in the NBA. The Boston Celtics and LA Lakers are the biggest rivals in the NBA, are both the most successful franchises with 17 NBA titles and have won more than 45% of all NBA championships. This is how the rivalry has continued to have feeling through the decades.


Bill Russell vs. Jerry West

Bill Russell and the Celtics owned the 1960's with Boston winning 11 titles over a 13-year span. It was an ugly period in the rivalry for the Lakers and Jerry West, meeting the Celtics six times in the NBA Finals throughout the 60s and losing on every occasion.

As good as West was alongside Elgin Baylor, it wasn't enough as Russell absolutely dominated the boards. West even became the first and only player to be awarded Finals MVP on a losing team in 1969. Russell would retire that same year with 11 championship rings to his name.
West guided the Lakers to nine NBA Finals and they lost every single series but one, with Los Angeles winning the 1972 championship over Philadelphia. Both West and Russell laid the foundations of the greatest rivalry in NBA history and West left a legacy of becoming the silhouette of the NBA logo.

Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson

Throughout the 80s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson not only took the Celtics-Lakers rivalry to the next level, they helped transform the NBA. Johnson helped the Lakers continue the momentum from the 70's and Bird helped turn around a Celtics franchise who had struggled in the later part of the 70's. Both Bird and Johnson led what are considered to be among the best teams in NBA history - the 1986 Celtics (67-15) and the 1987 Lakers (65-17) championship winning teams.

The rivalry was at it's peak throughout the decade. Not only was it an East Coast vs. West Coast thing but there was also a strong racial divide between the two franchises. Boston was a largely white working class city and many locals resisted desegregation of blacks in schools. Bird was even nicknamed the "Great White Hope" but to his credit he cared little about the tag.

Los Angeles has the biggest population of blacks on the West Coast and it's African-American stars of Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy were seen as representing blacks.

Both Boston and LA dominated the 80's together winning 8 championships, the Lakers winning five of them and winning two out of the three times that they met Boston in the finals.

Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce

Between 2000-2010 the Lakers won five NBA championships led by Kobe Bryant. Boston and Los Angeles met twice in the NBA Finals during this period - 21 years after their 1987 NBA Finals meeting - and it was the battle between Bryant and Paul Pierce that helped revive the greatest NBA rivalry.

In the 2008 NBA Finals the Celtics beat the Lakers in six games thanks to Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Game 4 was one of the greatest playoff games in history with Boston overcoming a 24-point deficit to take a 3-1 series lead and all the momentum to run away with the title.

Kobe and the Lakers would get their revenge in 2010 winning the championship in seven games. Pierce and Kobe's rivalry was on show as Kobe was held to an uncharacteristic 6-of-24 from the field. It wasn't enough tough as Kobe, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom would help guide the Lakers to the NBA championship.


Another Basketball Blog is a spin-off of Wolfgang Sport, an American and British sports blog I created in 2017. Basketball is one of the most culturally intensive sports in the world and the aim is to dive deep into the culture.


That was a cool historical overview! I am not that much into the NBA but reading this post gives me at least some understanding about the history and what happend during all those years. In the end those rivalries are what are making a sport more enjoyable!

glad to hear! when it comes to rivalries in the NBA, this would be the one to know

!1UP Great post!


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Rivalry makes sports and competitions a bit more interesting. I think we need more!

I love this publication and it was an interesting read. I too, agree, that Lakers-Celtics is the biggest rivalry in the NBA.

I have seen a couple of documentary on this.