NBA Finals 2022 – Why there’s more than a title on the line for the Celtics – and it starts with the Lakers

NBA Finals 2022 – Why there’s more than a title on the line for the Celtics – and it starts with the Lakers

Inside the Auerbach Center, the Boston Celtics’ new training facility, the team installed two sets of championship banners to match the official banners in their arena seven miles from the Mass Pike.

To say that these 17 banners are sacrosanct for the organization might be an understatement. So why not have as many duplicates as possible?

One morning at the building last June, as team owner Wyc Grousbeck prepared to officially announce his decision to promote Brad Stevens to team president, the two men struck a pact under these symbolic flags. .

“We made a commitment to each other to earn Banner 18,” Grousbeck said, “or die trying.”

Banner 18. This is the fashionable rallying cry of the two organizations inherited from the NBA: the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.

This championship fight, wrapped in a decades-long rivalry, makes the Lakers a ghost opponent of the Celtics in these ongoing 2022 NBA Finals. Both teams sit at 17 and it’s a high-stakes race to take the league’s all-time lead.

The Lakers have won six titles against the Celtics since the turn of the century, closing the historic gap. When the Lakers won in 2020, they tied the teams for the first time since 1963 (the Minneapolis Lakers won six of the first eight titles in league history).

This season in Los Angeles, there were high hopes that the acquisition of Russell Westbrook would see the Lakers add an 18th star to their logo on center court, a driving force for the Buss family to fulfill a dream of their late patriarch. .

“It was always Dr. [Jerry] Buss’ goal is to get past Boston,” said Laker great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who led the Lakers to five of those championships. “The Lakers never want the Celtics to win.”

“Dr. Buss always said losing was bad enough, but losing to the Celtics was not tolerable,” said Mychal Thompson, who won two titles in Los Angeles, including one against Boston in the 1987 Finals. .

“We’re all Warriors fans now,” he said. “They have to do us a favor and keep us tied with Boston. We can’t let them get to 18 ahead of us.”

The long-running rivalry has been chronicled in a long line of books, movies, Broadway plays and, most recently, the HBO series “Winning Time,” which featured dramatized trashy talk between Buss and the Celtics legend. , Red Auerbach. This final, however, is just one example of the many proxy battles that have taken place between the two sides over the years.

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