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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. lakermike - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    Funny, the Lakers didn’t suffer through 15 consecutive sub-50 win seasons despite losing Magic early. Due to Bias’ cocaine overdose we’ll never know if he would have been good or a bad NBA player (there are no guarantees). As for Reggie Lewis, he certainly was not in the same galaxy as Magic Johnson, but the Celtics just couldn’t recover like the Lakers did.

  2. Gary - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    The Lakers or the Celtics – this is a classic question that brings me flying back to the 80’s and beyond – and either way it’s going to make for great basketball and a great series! I read somewhere where the NBA and MLB love that classic rivalries making into the finals because ratings go through the roof and the entire country turns on the TV to watch – I’m just looking forward to a possible seven game series with tight games going back and forth, so we can all start screaming at the TV for the best team to win-
    I say “Go great basketball”!

  3. Jon Eisenberg - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Because of his ingenuity Red Auerbach made the Boston Celtics and helped save the NBA more then once. HE WAS THE BEST COACH AND THE CELTICS ARE THE BEST FRANCHISE.

  4. SEH - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Do not even try to compare these teams to teams of old. For one, there is pure zone defense today. Second, the players walk all over the place and practically commit assault and battery at will. Nice to try to make this a Celtic-Laker thing but hard to watch today’s basketball as when we watched some of the older matchups. Just different games.

  5. Marisol - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Let’s go Boston, let’s go……..Clap Clap

  6. Anonymous - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    clap………. clap…………
    let’s go boston let’s go……

  7. KOBE_SUX_BAL^S - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    The Celtics in 5, I don’t know where are you LA fans might be, maybe scared now knowing that your team will get their jaws busted by the boston celtics. All of you weak Faker fans who claim kobe is the greatest must all be 6 or 7 years old. Did you folks forget about MJ already? The true GOAT..btw c’s in 5!

  8. craig - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    I was fortunate to be around during the sixties, and personally hated the Celtics, watched the lakers dominate the 80’s . cannot wait to see what happens this year. been a laker fan for over 40years. it should be a great series.

  9. lakermike - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    You’re correct. Red WAS the best coach. Jackson IS the best coach. You coach to win championships. 10>9. Case closed.
    Remember, Jordan, Shaq, and Kobe won ZERO championships when Jackson wasn’t their coach (despite 10 combined seasons of play).
    The Celtics used to hold a 13-6 advantage in championships over the Lakers. Now it’s just 17-15. That’s because the Lakers have been the far better franchise over the past 30 years.
    Plus,the Lakers never experienced a long and protracted display of horrific basketball like the Celtics did from 1992-1993 until 2006-2007.

  10. Ugh - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    Neither….we’re all, quite frankly, sick of this match up year after year. Celtics are thugs and Lakers are Punks, basically its the crips vs. the bloods.
    Both these teams love to toot their own horns about their extreme awesome-ness!!!!
    Time for new blood!! A Orlando vs. Phoenix series would have been so much better for the NBA and its viewers!!

  11. nissanchick - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    I was Lakers until Kobe became an ass (25 some years)
    Unfortunatly, I will have to cheer Doc Rivers

  12. ChickHearnLives - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    As someone who just reached their 40’s, I am older than most NBA fans. But in my time I’ve seen the Lakers win 9 titles to the Celtics 5. In my time I’ve seen Alabama win more college football championships than Yale even though Yale has the most college football titles (according to the record book).
    It’s a matter of relevance… The Lakers and the Crimson Tide are relevant. The Celtics and Yale? Not so much.
    But if you wanna live in the past, be my guest. Break out those 45’s, crank up your symphonic turntable and listen to the sweet sounds of the Letterman with a highball martini.

  13. ChickHearnLives - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    As someone who just reached their 40’s, I am older than most NBA fans. But in my time I’ve seen the Lakers win 9 titles to the Celtics 5. In my time I’ve seen Alabama win more college football championships than Yale even though Yale has the most college football titles (according to the record book).
    It’s a matter of relevance… The Lakers and the Crimson Tide are relevant. The Celtics and Yale? Not so much.
    But if you wanna live in the past, be my guest. Break out those 45’s, crank up your symphonic turntable and listen to the sweet sounds of the Letterman with a highball martini.

  14. Eric - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    yeah LA fans are scared of a message board…this series isn’t about kobe it’s about Lakers playing the Celtics. MM was saying the lakers should have an asterisk on the last title because there was no KG? how about an asterisk on the last title boston won because of an injured Bynum? This was such a stupid discussion Matt Moore needs to be fired or go back to being the 3rd string QB of the Carolina Panthers.

  15. Jon Eisenberg - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    While I would agree Phil Jackson is a good coach, he has a good habbit of being in the right place at the right time when both Bulls and Lakers regimes were being formed. Plus the Celtics lost both Len Bias and Reggie Lewis during the down time which did cost them dearly in the rebuilding process.

  16. Jamie - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    As a die hard C’s fan I want to make a few points that tip the best franchise in our favor. Yes the 90’s the C’s blew. Please keep in mind that we lost TWO players to death. Len Bias though never played in the NBA was unreal and maybe the closest thing to Jordan ever and would have been the building block for the 90’s. Then it was Reggie Lewis in the early 90’s. Please tell me who else won a title in the West before the Rockets in mid 90’s? The answer is no one! The 80’s for the western conference was cup cake city. Try dealing with the 76’ers, Pistons and young Bulls in the 80’s for the C’s. If they played in the West would have been a few more titals. Finally all time match ups in the Finals is 9-2 for the franchises in favor of the C’s. That says it all. I don’t care what other stat there is 9-2 is a drubbing Laker fans! We have like a .90 winning percentage in the Finals and the Lakers are 50%. BEAT IT LA. Tinsel town is for wusses…..

  17. Everett Paul - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    How can any Lakers’ fan talk about “buying” titles? Boston brought in KG and Ray Allen through trades. The Lakers straight up BOUGHT Shaq through free agency. Without O’Neal, LA is still looking for banner # 12.
    Either way, the debate comes down to two things: 1) who has more titles? and, 2) what is the record between the two teams in head to head Finals appearances. The answers are the Boston Celtics and 9-2. End of debate. I am a born and bred Bostonian, but this debate is akin to Yankees-Red Sox. Sure, I love the Red Sox, but you can’t argue with the numbers.

  18. michael - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    In about 10 days the Celtics will have dismantled the teams with the 3 best records in basketball this year and along that ride dispatched Wade / Lebron / Howard / Kobe. Four rings are nice Kobe but you have to beat the Celtics to be relevant.
    Defense wins championships whether it’s the 50’s, 60’s 70’s or 80’s…the Celtics live it the Lakers discuss it.
    Teams with the best road record have won the title the last 3 years…the Celtics had the BEST road record in the NBA this year. Enough said !!!!!
    Enjoy your 2009 Championship Lakers fans….you won it against the B team.

  19. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Ugh, you’re an idiot. Better for the viewers??? Have you noticed the buzz surrounding this year’s Finals? You sound like an unhappy Phoenix fan having delusions of grandeur. Orlando would’ve been interesting….I’ll give you that.
    While many would’ve liked to see Cleveland vs LA, this series is by far the best consulation prize for the majority of NBA fans. I’m a Lakers fan that would obviously like to see Phil earn one more ring, but there are players on the Celtics I’d love to see win another as well.

  20. TominNH - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:14 PM

    Boston is the better team for 2 major reasons:
    1) They are a TEAM!! They move the ball until they find the right guy! Rondo is especially good at doing that!!
    2) Boston is the better defensive team. The Lakers havent often play a defensive team as strong as Boston.
    For me, these are the 2 major reasons why my Boston Celtics will beat your Los Angeles Lakers. Wade is great, but he lost; Lebron is great, but he lost; Howard is great, but HE lost too! Kobie is great, but he will lose too becuz his greatness wont be enough against the Big Three who play as a team!

  21. theman07 - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    Sure are alot of comments with regards to the Celtics and all their victorys being long ago. Bottom line is they have the most recent victory over the Lakers for a title. The mention of all the Lakers appearances for the title, but no mention of the losses. Percentages tell all. Boston has a higher winning percentage when playing for the title

  22. Tater - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Orlando?!? Puleeze! A crummy point guard, 3 small forwards and a center that can block shots but is incapable of scoring more than 4 feet from the rim. I am amazed they managed to win 59 games as poorly as that team is constructed (not to mention coached by a Van Gundy, the most ignorant brothers to grace the NBA – Please ABC, dump the other brother). All that shows is how weak the East still is, sorry Cav fans. Boston is clearly the class of the East, and in a week or two we’ll see if they are the class of the NBA as well. I have my doubts.

  23. John - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    Should be a good series no doubt. The Celtics aren’t intimidated by the Lakers and have beaten them before. The Celtics are relatively healthy and point guard will decide this. I’ll check to the Celtics in 6. History will repeat itself.

  24. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    I didn’t realize a “TEAM” is made up of three players. Hilarious! You clearly didn’t watch the Lakers/Phoenix series. Knuckleheads holding on to Kobe’s younger years of being a ball-hog should look at “TEAM” stats before they start running their mouths. Face it, these are two great teams. Otherwise they wouldn’t be where they’re at. Both starting five are lethal, to say the least. Both teams must pick their poisons when drawing up defensive strategies. Yes, I’m a Lakers fan, but, all loyalties aside, this series is going to be fun to watch.

  25. Hackpiper - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    The Lakers are the “twinkies of sports.” Perfect. Not that it has anything to do with the finals…but its funny nonetheless.
    Lets have some fun here Laker fans. Even if the Celts don’t win the series, we’ll still probably beat up your bus as you leave town. Take your shots! :)

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