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Lakers/Celtics: Which franchise reigns supreme?

May 30, 2010, 4:25 PM EDT

Laker_Celtics_logos.pngLakers fans and Celtics fans do not like each other. True rivals. Some grudging respect through the hate, but both want to take each other out.

And both know they are the best franchise in the NBA. PBT’s Kurt Helin (taking the Lakers side)  and Matt Moore ( Celtics) hash the franchise debate out.

Kurt Helin
: No doubt, you have to respect the Celtics history. The thing is, it is history. Most of their titles came almost 50 years ago — time has passed the Celtics by. They are the Betty White of NBA franchises, still trying to milk a little more out of past glory. They’re still better than most, but the Lakers won more titles in the 80s. More titles last decade. The Lakers are more relevant now.

Matt Moore: And yet barring a KG injury, the path to three straight finals appearances is wide open, including a victory over the Lakers. And recent history won’t overcome the only number that matters. Seventeen.

KH: Sure, 17. Thing is, Bill Russell is not coming out of that tunnel. Larry Bird is not suiting up. The mythology of the Celtics is old, it took buying a title with a lucky trade for KG to get that one more banner. Meanwhile while the Celtics struggled since the 80s the Lakers just kept rebuilding, making smart moves and marching forward. They understand how to win and keep winning. All the Celtics need understand is that window — that imported championship window — is closing fast.

MM: And yet for all their machinations, all their savvy, and all their guile, it still came down to drawing an ace with Kobe and then abusing the luxury tax for them to reach the peal of the mountain, and yet still the C’s hang more banners.

Meanwhile the Celtics’ hard nosed legacy and mystique lived on while the Lakers are no more than a good, not great championship team that lacks effort and heart. Even their former glory is shaded in pomp and circumstance: “Showtime.”

And for all the rebuilding and progress L.A. has made, what do they really have? A window longer by what, 2 seasons, max?

KH: The longer window, even by a couple years, means once again the Lakers will leave this era with more titles than the Celtics.

You are dismissive of “showtime” but it is the perfect embodiment of Los Angeles. This city is about entertainment and winning, and “showtime” means both. Why not win with flair? Not just the Magic-era teams, but now Kobe is putting on a show, hitting fade-away game winners with two hands in his face. Don’t confuse “showtime” with soft. The 80s Lakers were not soft. The Shaq-led three-peat teams were not soft. And if the Celtics think these Lakers are soft, they are in for a shock.

The Celtics legacy? Built on unfair talent advantages for a decade, and tedious physical play. Take the beautiful game and grind it down. Destroy the artistry, ugly it all up. Push, grab and hold. No thanks, I will take the pure game from Los Angeles. Anytime.

MM: You can cherish that pure game all you want, the fact is, that bullying style has been more effective. Beauty’s nice. Strength is better. This isn’t a beauty contest, it’s armed conflict in the gladiatorial arena. You bring the makeup mirror and I’ll bring the crowbar and we’ll see which one walks out.

And you can project all you want for those titles, but it’s not like we haven’t seen the egos in L.A. detonate their title window (hello, 2004!) before. We have what we have, and what we have, is a Celtics franchise with more titles, and who has done it with more nuance and sophistication than simply stocking up on the biggest, prettiest players they can swindle for. And if you want projection, you’ve got to go ahead and tag an asterisk on that 15th championship for not having gone through Boston due to injury.

Furthermore, in the greater franchise context, the Lakers didn’t even start in L.A. They’re the Lakers. Despite L.A. not really being known for its lakes. If it were the Los Angeles People That Only Show Up To Sporting Events Because It’s Fashionable, that would make sense. The atmosphere at the Garden, even the TD Northbank versus the old Garden, dwarfs the experience in the fashion show that is Staples. Boston’s been around forever, and is tied to that city in a way the Lakers will never be because there’s nothing to tie to L.A. Well, besides plastic surgery, perhaps. The Celtics are a classic franchise in sports, the likes of the Packers and Yankees. The Lakers are a championship organization brought out of nothing organic. The Twinkies of sports. Immensely popular, but there’s nothing really there.

KH: Los Angeles is a city of transplants? What exactly is Boston? The place where the first settlers landed — the first transplants? With a team named after the Irish homeland?

Forget it. It’s time to settle this on the court. Again.

So you know what’s going on here: Kurt Helin is the blogger-in-chief of and a lifelong Lakers fan. Matt Moore is the weekend editor of and doesn’t really think either team is the best franchise, he’s just playing devil’s advocate. He tends to think the Oklahoma City Thunder are the best franchise, because he likes Thunderstix.

110 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. AgingCelticLineup - Jun 9, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    I dont know, but clearly they recovered in time to destroy the Celtics in their first home game of the series.

  2. Hackpiper - Jun 14, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    Still feeling good about that so-called “retribution?”

  3. NBA 2010 CHAMPION LAKERS - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    Yep. Retribution. Go Lakers.

  4. We are the Champions ----AGAIN - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:19 AM

    Gee Krazzzy, it looks like you were wrong. No, it doesn’t look like you were wrong, YOU WERE WRONG! Never count out a team with heart, we don’t lay down and die. When it comes to crunch time, the Lakers know how to crunch out the W. While it was nice winning tonight, the best part is knowing that a lot of big mouthed boston fans are crying their hearts out. After reading countless posts of how the Lakers didn’t have what it would take, the most satisfaction for Laker fans is showing you big mouths how wrong you were. Can’t wait til next year when Kobe and Derek win their 6th ring.

  5. Cross - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Lakers and Celtics are both great teams. Celtics have 1 title more than Lakers but the Lakers have more Finals appearance than the Celtics, 31 to 21.

  6. The facts - Jun 21, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    The Los Angelas Lakers are a great team and have won many world championships. However, a third of those so called championships were won by a team inMinneapolis. That is not the same as the 17 won by the team located in one place, Boston. You must separate the Lakers into two teams, LA andMinneapolis. So Kobe better stick around for another 10 years to reach that status.

  7. dudeasp - Jun 23, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    THe Lakers have been to the finals more, but the Western Conference was really pretty weak most of the time. In an era when there was no salary cap, the Lakers spent more then any of the other tiny cities of the west.
    And the Celtics had tragedy. Reggie Lewis and Len Bias’s death killed the franchise for 20 years. We are just rebuilding.
    And the whole thing about the Celtics buying their championship is bs. What did the Lakers do when they bought Shaq? Please.

  8. np - Jun 25, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    dudeasp: in case you haven’t been paying attention the last decade or so, when LA’s been to the Finals 7 of the last 10 seasons, the Western Conference has clearly been stronger. In the last several years, even the West’s lowest seeds won 50 or more games.
    The C’s did have tragedies, which were unfortunate, but you cannot pin twenty-two years of irrelevance on two untimely deaths. Poor management has plagued them over the years. In contrast, LA had the greatest general manager in any sport, Jerry West, who built multiple title teams in different decades.
    Neither side has an argument on buying titles. That’s what teams are *supposed* to do.
    But the bulk of the C’s titles came in the 50’s and 60’s. The Browns won a ton of titles during that same time and you don’t hear their fans bragging on that fact. The Lakers have won five titles in a 10 year span in three different generations (and fans pushing the “Minneapolis Exception” just show they’re hearing footsteps). Most Boston fans crowing about the record v. the Lakers in the Finals (now 9-3) weren’t even alive for most of them. The Lakers have won three of the last five. Boston has a number of legendary players. At least half of the greatest 10 players of all time are Lakers.
    A lot of Celtic fans are dogging out LA’s record in the Finals. It just means that LA was doing what they were supposed to do — get to the title round. Win or lose, a Finals appearance is evidence of a quality season, and LA’s had far more of those the last 30 years than the C’s. Many years, when LA was losing in the Finals, the Celtics were in the lottery. For all of the C’s fans’ bellyaching about injuries costing them in 2009 and 2010, they forget LA was without Bynum and a healthy Ariza in 2008. And historically, injuries cost LA in the Finals in 1983 and 1989.
    Looking to the future, the Lakers’ core remains intact. The C’s core is in a state of flux. LA is positioned to tie Boston’s title count as early as 2011. And perhaps exceed it if Kobe stays healthy. With perennial winners in three generations, more all-time players, and better management, only the most die-hard Celtics’ fan could deny Los Angeles is the superior franchise.

  9. np - Jun 25, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    The facts: really? That’s all you’ve got?
    If a couple has sixteen children, five in Minneapolis and 11 in Los Angeles, they all belong to the couple. Anyone who tries to claim the couple has eleven children when they’ve parented sixteen, all of whom live in the couple’s current house, winds up looking like an idiot.
    Titles follow franchises. Ask the Dodgers or the Raiders.
    The only reason C’s fans like you make the argument is because you’re hearing the footsteps. LA’s one away from removing the only figleaf of an argument you have in the debate, and the only way to preserve it is with silly non-facts.

  10. Anonymous - Jun 26, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    Kurt definitely won this battle.

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