In his mind, Mikan and the Lakers lose credibility because of the absence of those aforementioned things but makes no mention of the fact that the Celtics first NINE championships, more than half (!), were won in an NBA with only eight or nine teams TOTAL and eight of those nine title teams only had to play two playoff rounds in order to win a championship.
On what planet would those five Lakers championships won in Minneapolis be any less credible than those first eight won by the Celtics?
I’ll make you a deal, Bill. You forget about those first eight Celtics banners that were won when winning a title was akin to just MAKING IT to today’s conference finals and I’ll forget about those five the Lakers won in Minneapolis. I should also mention that all but one of the Lakers 11 championships since moving to L.A. were won in an NBA with at least 22 teams in it. So the Celtics may have won one more titles than the Lakers overall but there’s no question which team’s are more impressive.
Simmons was born just a few months after the Celtics won their 11th title in 1969. At the time, the Celtics led the Lakers 11-5 in titles and the Lakers were still three years away from winning their first championship in Los Angeles. Not only had the Celtics won six more but seven of those 11 championships came against the Lakers. None of those five titles the Lakers won in Minneapolis came against the Celtics.
So in the 43 years since Simmons was born, the Lakers have won 11 titles, 10 of which he is old enough to remember quite clearly. Conversely, the Celtics have won just six during that span. So he can talk all he wants about superiority, just know that during his lifetime he has witnessed almost twice as much agony rooting against the Lakers than he has celebrated while rooting for the Celtics.
Speaking of agony, have you noticed that he’s never pointed out that, in three of the five seasons of the Kevin Garnett Era, the Celtics were eliminated in a series in which they held a 3-2 advantage and went on to lose the next two games? Or that they had double-digit leads in each of those Game 7s? Nor has he ever mentioned that they’re 11-15 overall in games in which they have a chance to clinch a series.
Compare that to the Lakers, who during that same span, lost more potential series-clinching games against Denver in last season’s playoffs than they did in the previous four seasons combined. Comparatively, over that same stretch the Lakers are 13-3 with a chance to win a series. Remember that the next time someone tries to talk to you about Kendrick Perkins’ knee. Simmons loves to point out Kobe’s 6-for-24 shooting in Game 7 but never mentions that Kobe and Pau combined to outrebound Garnett in that game, 33-3.
I remember what it was like losing to the Celtics in the 1984 Finals and hearing about how the Celtics owned the Lakers. That win had improved the Celtics record to 8-0 against the Lakers in the Finals. I remember the taunts like they were recurring nightmares. I remember the laughter at our expense. I remember hearing Jerry West fight back tears while talking about never beating the Celtics and winning the 1969 Finals MVP despite being on the losing team — the only one to ever lose an NBA Finals Game 7 at home.
Even though the Celtics are now 9-3 against the Lakers in the Finals, it’s not the Lakers fault the Celtics were practically irrelevant for almost all of the 20 seasons between 1988 and 2007. Simmons can claim all he wants that the 1986 Celtics were the NBA’s greatest team. He can write about how the Lakers didn’t hold up their end of the bargain by getting to the Finals and granting the Celtics the chance to avenge their loss from 1985 but the Celtics didn’t hold up their end of a different bargain. They let an entire generation of NBA fans down by allowing the best rivalry in sports to pretty much die out by missing the playoffs more times in the 90s than making them. The Celtics were such regulars at the Draft Lottery, they could have moved their front office to Secaucus.
I applaud Jason Terry for trying to reignite a rivalry that seems to be on life support. Here’s a recent interview with Red Auerbach’s daughter, Randy, where she talks about her hatred for the Lakers and what it’s like living in L.A. with that hatred. Just like I loved it when Sasha Vujacic said he wouldn’t wear green after losing to the Celtics in 2008. If you don’t have a deep-rooted anger for the Celtics than do yourself a favor and fake it until you make it. It will make it that much sweeter when the Lakers pass a team that at one time held a 13-6 lead in titles.
Bill Simmons has a lot of power and, either knowingly or unknowingly, has used it to try and not only dictate that the sports world remember things how he wants them to but now he’s hell-bent on trying to retroactively rewrite history as well. He knows that most of his readers don’t remember 1986 so why not emblazon in their minds that they were the greatest team of all-time, right? The least I ask of him is that he put “I think…” or “In my opinion…” in front of those thoughts he likes to present to his readers as facts.
I won’t hold my breath. But at least we’ll always have this and this to hold us down in the meantime. So while I’m disappointed that the rivalry is a shell of it’s former self, I’m also not surprised the hatred is very much one-sided now. If a gorgeous woman leaves her fat and lazy husband for someone better, which one would you guess still thinks about the other?