Since 1999, the Western Conference has been represented 11 times in the Finals by either the Lakers or the Spurs. Only in 2006 was it represented by Dallas. Of those 11 appearances, 9 NBA titles have gone to the West – five to the Lakers and four to the Spurs.
The Lakers have met the Spurs along the way in six of those past 11 conference championships, either in the semifinal or final round. And of those six meetings, four of the winners have gone on to be the NBA Champion. Not only does the East have to go through Los Angeles or San Antonio, but they typically have to go through each other first.
They say it’s not a rivalry until you’re able to take the same prize from each other. Until you both win. Was Lakers-Kings a rivalry in the early 2000’s? Nope. The Kings could never dethrone the Lakers. While many other teams fancy themselves as the Lakers’ new and upcoming rivalry, there has only been one – the San Antonio Spurs.
But what about Lakers-Celtics? They’ve won and lost against each other for the grand prize, right? I guess for media’s sake you could sell that as a rivalry, but it doesn’t even compare to that rivalry of the 80’s. The odds of these Lakers and Celtics squads meeting each other in the Finals gets slimmer and slimmer each year.
When it comes to the Lakers or the Spurs punching their ticket to the Finals, it typically happens at the expense of the other. It is the best rivalry the NBA has at the moment.
Next: 2011: Lakers vs. Spurs
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