Are you ready? It’s Celtics vs. Lakers!

(FILE/Branimir Kvartuc/AP)

Since the NBA was founded in June 6, 1946, the two have met 10 times in the NBA Finals. For the first eight encounters—would you believe—the Celtics prevailed against the Lakers.

In 1959, when the teams first met and the Lakers were then called the “Minneapolis Lakers,” the Celtics clobbered their nemesis, 4-0. This domination continued for decades—including the 1984 victory at Boston Garden, 4-3, when Larry Bird bested Magic Johnson and emerged as the series MVP. That’s 8-0 for Boston.

Then, in 1985, the Lakers—named after the state’s nickname, “Land of 10,000 Lakes”—finally escaped from embarrassment and, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Finals MVP, captured the title, 4-2.

Next, two years after, in 1987, it was the last time the Green-and-White Team met the Purple-and-Gold Squad in the NBA Finals. The result? In favor of the La-La-Land, 4-2.

So, here we are, two decades and a year from that last memory….

Can you believe this? At the season’s start, did you picture this happening? Can you imagine how huge this is for the NBA? For basketball? For the “young ones” who haven’t seen such a contest in 21 years and, to those who saw plenty of the past, to the “once young?”

Flashbacks of Bill Russell, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Cousy will rush to mind. Thoughts of Kurt Rambis diving to the parquet floor, James Worthy wearing those plastic goggles and Danny Ainge taunting Michael Cooper will envelop our memories.

The NBA Commissioner David Stern, when asked two weeks ago about the prospect a Lakers-Celtics final, replied, “Never think of it.”

Yeah, right, Mr. Stern. To think that he smiled when he answered that question. That’s because David Stern doesn’t ‘think’ about it, he ‘dreams’ about it.

I saw the last three minutes of each game the past two days. With the Lakers vs. the Spurs, I caught glimpses at the Cebu Country Club with Macky Michael and Angchung Chiu just minutes before we awarded the winners of the 13th Gullas Tennis Cup. Yesterday at the Bar Mixto of the Casino Español, I joined Glenn Loop, Ralph Zuluaga, Vic Torres and Jeffrey Dico as the Celtics won at The Palace.

The question is: Who are you rooting for?

“Anybody but Kobe,” answered Glenn loop. “I’m for the Celtics because I don’t like Kobe. I think he should be humbled.” We laughed. The Most Valuable Player, the man whose intensity and will to win is taller than the 10-foot-tall ring, Kobe is still disliked by plenty.

My brother Charlie, whose physique matches a smaller Kobe and one who can mimic many of Kobe’s moves, is the same: He dislikes No. 24.

But while plenty find Kobe too much of a trying-hard-to-be-like-MJ player, there’s no denying that he’s playing his best ever basketball. Me? Like millions of others, I applaud Kobe. Remember nearly five years ago? When he sat in a courtroom in Colorado, accused of forcing himself on 19-year-old Katelyn Faber? We all thought that moment was the end of Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant.

Now we know how he escaped from that ordeal and persevered. To me, that sorry episode humbled Kobe. Because while none of that cockiness and self-confidence is gone today—if you don’t have those deep-inside, say the champions, then you can’t be No.1—I believe Kobe’s learned from his mistakes.

And so this series will be extra special. If his Lakers win, I’m sure this will be sweeter than his three previous NBA titles. Why? Because this time, no one can say he won it because of Shaq.

As to the TV coverage of the NBA playoffs? I made a mistake. Last Thursday, I wrote saying that, other than Destiny Cable who shows BTV, we can’t watch the games in Cebu. I was wrong. There’s RPN among the local networks and, with SkyCable, there’s channel 44. Thank God I’m mistaken. For who’d want to miss the 11th Round of this fight between two of history’s greatest rivalries?

Not the young ones. Not the once young.

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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