A little history


Larry Bird (center) and Magic Johnson (left) dueled in the 1987 NBA Finals. (Globe File Photo)

You’ll be inundated with tales of Magic, Bird, West, and Russell in the coming days. But for those of you who weren’t around during the height of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, here’s a primer to get you started.

The Celtics and Lakers have met 10 times in the NBA Finals, most recently in 1986-87, a series the Lakers won 4-2. The Lakers beat the Celtics one other time in the 80’s, 4-3, in 1984-85.

Before that, the Celtics beat the Lakers in their previous eight Finals meetings, with seven of them coming in the 1960’s. Bill Russell and Bob Cousy led those Celtics teams, while Jerry West and Elgin Baylor were the stars of the Lakers.


Because it’s the most recent, the 1986-87 Finals between the two teams is one of the most remembered. The Lakers finished the season with a 65-17 record, while Boston came into the postseason at 59-23.

With homecourt advantage, the Lakers took Game 1 in LA, 126-113. Los Angeles took a 2-0 lead with a 141-122 victory in Game 2.

The Celtics returned to the Boston Garden and earned a 109-103 victory in Game 3, but Game 4 was the turning point in the series. After Larry Bird’s three put the Celtics ahead with 12 seconds remaining, Magic Johnson won the game with his infamous sky hook coming across the lane. The Lakers won the game, 107-106.

The Celtics protected their home court with a win in Game 5, but the Lakers closed out the series in Game 6, 106-93, to earn their fourth championship of the decade.

The two teams have also made quite a bit of history when not facing each other. The Celtics have won 16 championships, most of any NBA franchise. Their last title came in 1985-86.

The Lakers have won 14 titles overall, closing the gap on Boston in the last two decades. Los Angeles has won five championships since the Celtics last won a title, including three in a row from 2000-2002.


If the Celtics need any extra motivation to win this year, late Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach should provide plenty of inspiration. Auerbach won nine titles as a coach, tied for most all-time with current Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Championship No. 17 would taste a little sweeter if the Celtics could deny Jackson another ring.

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