THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

No time limit on what this offers

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 31, 2010

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Celtics-Lakers is the championship rivalry that spans “American Bandstand’’ and “American Idol.’’ It gives all of us, old and young, a chance to relive the good old days.

Baby boomers will relate to the epic Boston-LA battles of the 1960s. Between 1959-69, there were seven championship finals featuring the Celtics and Lakers and the Celtics won them all. Graybeards remember Frank Selvy’s miss and Don Nelson’s high bounce off the back rim. We remember Russell and Sam Jones beating Wilt, Elgin, and Jerry West under the balloons at the Los Angeles Forum.

Generation Xers think of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson when they see the Celtics and Lakers in another final. Those were the golden years of the NBA and the three Celtics-Lakers Finals between 1984-87 stand as basketball’s equivalent of the Ali-Frazier fights. The 1984 epic (won in seven by the Celtics) ranks as one of the top three sporting events these eyes have seen, along with the 2004 Red Sox and the 2001 Patriots. I can say with some certainty that the Lakers winning the championship at the old Garden in 1985 qualifies as the best mo ment in the professional lives of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, and Johnson.

Even the very young have a point of reference. If you’ve never known a world without Twitter, you can get nostalgic thinking about the 2008 Finals when Kevin Garnett and friends proved that anything is possible. The memory of that series should motivate the Lakers. Kobe Bryant and his mates were thoroughly embarrassed in the sixth and final game at the New Garden (it was 129-86 late in the fourth) and they no doubt remember the glee with which the Celtics danced on their soft bones.

That was the last championship won by a team from New England. Two whole years ago. And now these 2010 Celtics try to join the ghosts and the gods who live in the rafters above the parquet floor.

Winning a second one is important to every Celtics team. Less than an hour after the Celtics defeated the Magic in Game 6 Friday night, a reporter asked coach Doc Rivers, “Does it almost take a second championship with the group to cement yourself in history — because of all the winning that’s come before you?’’

Ever media friendly, never disposed to ignore the obvious (imagine how Bill Belichick would have handled that question), Rivers admitted, “Obviously, one is special, but the other groups have a couple and we’d like to join that club.’’

Great answer. Honest. It demonstrates that Rivers is capable of thinking like a fan.

The Celtics know that the rules are different here. One banner doesn’t get you into the club of champions. If you’re going to walk with the gods of Green Gardens, you’ve got to produce bookend trophies.

The Bird-McHale-Parish Celtics won three championships in the 1980s. The Cowens-Hondo-Jo Jo Celtics (coached by Tommy Heinsohn) won a pair in the 1970s. The Red-Cooz-Sam-Russell Celtics won two banners in the 1950s, then nine in the 1960s.

One is never enough when you play basketball for Boston. The Celtics’ starting five of Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins is 7-0 in playoff series since 2008 (we don’t count 2009 because Garnett was not there, just as we dismiss the 1958 Finals because Russell went down with a sprained ankle), but they don’t get a seat at the breakfast table of champions unless they win another.

“We never take these moments for granted,’’ said Pierce. “Especially at this point in my career where it’s winding down. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel [and] to get back here is a great accomplishment, but even greater if we win another one.’’

Our region has been champagne-drenched since the turn of the century. The first 10 years after Y2K produced six celebrations at City Hall Plaza and made duck boat parades more popular than the Freedom Trail or the swan boats. A generation of Boston children learned to recite the deeds of championship teams of the 21st century: three Lombardi Trophies for the Patriots, two World Series sweeps for the Red Sox, and banner No. 17 in the rafters for the Celtics’ new Big Three.

That decade is over. Even though this season started in 2009, we are putting this photo in a frame celebrating the second decade of the 21st century. The Bruins’ Stanley Cup season of 1969-70 is ever recognized as a championship from the ’70s. Not the ’60s. So we are in a new decade with this Celtics surge.

Game 1 is Thursday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be just like the old days, even if you’re not old enough to remember when Paula Abdul was a Laker Girl.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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