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The origins of 'Beat LA'

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  June 2, 2008 10:35 AM

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"Beat LA" is in. "Yankees Suck" is out. The chants, they are a changin' in Boston.

You'll be hearing the simple yet powerful "Beat LA!, Beat LA!, Beat LA!" battle cry all over New England now that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry has been renewed for the Finals.

For most fans, the chant is reminiscent of the playoff games in the old Boston Garden in the 1980s, when Magic Johnson squared off against Larry Bird and the Celtics and Lakers dominated the NBA.

But that's not when the chant took off in Boston. It actually started as a chant supporting the Philadelphia 76ers.

With 26 seconds to go in Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference finals at the old Garden and the Sixers pulling away from the soon-to-be ex-champs, the crowd began to chant the now-famous phrase. Philadelphia, after all, would be facing the hated Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"You hear what the crowd is chanting to the Sixers? 'Beat LA'" said CBS color commentator and Celtics legend Bill Russell as the Sixers were beating Boston 117-105 as the seconds ticked down.

"Beat LA ... that's great," replied play-by-play man Dick Stockton.

And so it began.

"That was nice," Series MVP Julius Erving said after that game, according to Sports Illustrated's Anthony Cotton. "But it wasn't as loud as 'See you Sunday,' was it?"

The "See you Sunday" chant was also made famous during the same series in Game 5 at the Garden, when the Celtics were down three games to one but the Boston fans were sure the Sixers would return to Boston for a deciding Game 7.

0531_Dr_J_sicover.jpg
(Sports Illustrated cover: March 31, 1982)

The "Beat LA" chant remains one of the most original creations from Boston, rivaling the "Ster-oids, Ster-oids" chants to Jose Canseco at Fenway in 1988. And the "Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl" shouts to Mets outfielder Daryl Strawberry during the 1986 World Series.

"One of the classiest, coolest thing a crowd has EVER done for an opponent," YouTube commenter torr5962 wrote regarding the "Beat LA" chant. "We talked about this STILL in Philly. Just sick cool."

"This is my favorite sports moment of all time too, but I'm a Celtics fan," YouTube commenter mcmillspiece wrote. "It's the only time in the history of Boston sports we ever did anything classy together."

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