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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. Jon Eisenberg - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    The Lakers are a collection of individuals while the Celtics are a TEAM with LOTS of help defense! And Defense wins chamionships!! 1969 all over again at the end of this series!!

  2. bill sievers - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    After the Celts handled the Cavs and Magic pretty convincingly, and the Suns gave the Lakers all they could handle I’m predicting Celtics in 6. It should be a really good series, but remember the Celtics are a great road team. If they win game 1 tonight the Lakers are in BIG trouble!

  3. kevi kev - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    If the Lakers win this time, i consider Kobe the best ever.

  4. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    All this chatter about Celtics being a better defensive team doesn’t add up, statistically. Look at the postseason team stats at ESPN. Neither team has a clearcut advantage. The Lakers averaged 105.7 pts, while the Celtics 96.6. Their opponents were 101.7, and 91.4. So, while the Celtics will most likely slow down the Lakers offense, their own offense statistically doesn’t have anywhere near the potency of the Lakers. My point? It’s basically a wash. These teams are MUCH more evenly matched than most here care to acknowledge.

  5. Anonymous - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    yeah because the Celtics can score as much as the suns and can heat up from the 3 point line at anytime. Next!

  6. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    All this chatter about Celtics being a better defensive team doesn’t add up, statistically. Look at the postseason team stats. Neither team has a clearcut advantage. The Lakers averaged 105.7 pts, while the Celtics 96.6. Their opponents were 101.7, and 91.4. So, while the Celtics will most likely slow down the Lakers offense, their own offense statistically doesn’t have anywhere near the potency of the Lakers. My point? It’s basically a wash. These teams are MUCH more evenly matched than most here care to acknowledge.

  7. Djukez - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    In response to this last blog i must admit i was flabbergasted. Not in that the points were so relevant. But simple because it was statistics taken out of context to try to prove a failed point. From 1961- 1965 were the lakers still a team in the NBA? From 1996 to 1998 did they suddenly take a two year absence as well? Even thought the Lakers have dominated the Western conference 19 times since 1969 the reason why they would have not won more titles if the same set up existed was and would be because the Boston Celtics, are still the Boston Celtics. That is why the Lakers did not win more championships back then, and that is why they did not win in 2008 and that is why they are facing an extremely tough match up in 2010. The bottom line being both teams are extremely talented and did not get here by happen stance. This is going to be a great match up i am calling the Celtics. But none the less a close one. Celtics win game 1 and then eventually the series in 7.

  8. G-Man - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    Honestly – I really do-not-like the Lakers. Let me tell you why…it’s about Showtime. Do you know what Showtime means to the rest of us basketball fans? It means you have the media and Hollywood worshiping you. I am sick and tired of the media Every-Single-Year telling us how great the Lakers are and how happy they are to see them win. It’s completely biased media attention. You are the Tiger Woods of the NBA. Tiger get’s all the press and adoration, and so do the Lakers. Yes – you are good, very good. But we as sports fans are sick and tired of the media worshiping the Lakers. That’s my two cents.

  9. djukez - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    How could you even say such a thing? I can definitely see on of the best all time but flat out, the best ever? EVER. DO you know who else played in the NBA let alone better then MJ. How could you say such a thing? I would real be interested in trying to understand how you could even come up with such a statement. Please explain?

  10. michael - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    IMJCS2……are you kidding me !
    The Celtics during the last 2 series have played Cleveland and Orlando who with the Celtics make up the 3 BEST DEFENSIVE TEAMS in the NBA !
    The Lakers have been playing teams who play defense like the local YMCA teams.
    The best way to look at defense is points scored per 100 attempts and the Celtics are the best by far. If the Celtics limit the Lakers to 91 pts per game that would be great….the series will be over in 5.

  11. FordhamLaw TX - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    Lakers-Celtics is like the Iran-Iraq war for most real Americans. We don’t care who wins, we just want to see lots of casualties on both sides.

  12. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    Nope, wasn’t kidding. I referenced points as an example. Look at the rest of the stats as well.

  13. michael - Jun 3, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    Then you must have gone off your meds….when the Celts win this series it will be their greatest championship. They will have dispatched the top 3 teams with the best records / Wade, Lebron, Howard and Kobe / AND will have won the last 3 series WITHOUT home court advantage.

  14. scott r - Jun 3, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    Lakers fans are like liberal celebrities who are only fans during the good times.

  15. The Len Bias Excuse??? - Jun 3, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    You’re not serious are you? You claiming that the 90’s sucked for the Celtic’s because your team drafted a crack-head? And that if Len Bias hadn’t died, he was gonna be a Hall-Of-Famer, NOT a crack-head draft bust? You must be on the same stuff he was.

  16. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 7:38 PM

    Don’t need nor take meds….you’re just too lazy or unable to understand statistics. Opinions are opinions. Data is fact. I’m not debating how great the Celtics are. If you had any level of intelligence, you would’ve understood that. Indeed, your Celtics ravaged the East this postseason. All I’m saying is this series isn’t a slam dunk for either team. Cheers.

  17. 666 - Jun 3, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    lol, good post!!

  18. michael - Jun 3, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    You’re right statistic boy, I guess I am too lazy. Maybe this year when the Celtics beat the Lakers by 39 in Game 6 to win the Championship as Kobe and the boys quit you can ask David Stern to reverse the outcome because the statistics said it should have been closer.

  19. Israel - Jun 3, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Basketball arguments as to why the Celtics are better? Matt doesn’t need to mention it, but since Ron went there…
    Celtics play better defense. Celtics play better on offense. Celtics play team ball. Lakers would be LA Clippers without Kobe. Rondo is faster and repeatedly burns the Lakers because they have no one that keep up with him at the point. We saw that in the regular season. Garnett is now playing like he’s 100%. I could go on forever, but the biggest reason is that the Celtics are a bunch of hard nosed players and the collective heart of the Lakers is questionable.

  20. IMJCS2 - Jun 3, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    I like that name….statistics boy…has a “ring” to it. It was good game tonight, wasn’t it?

  21. Junior - Jun 4, 2010 at 1:29 AM

    What are you talking about? Kevin Garnett is a skeleton of his former self. He was once vying for the top PF in NBA history and now is just a better than average PF. He averaged a mere 14 points and 7 rebounds a game! His stats have been nose diving the past three years. Just against the Magic he averaged 10 points on like 39% shooting. His post game has all but disappeared.
    Why do franchise statistics matter? What happened 20-40 years ago has no effect on the outcome of this series.
    The West has been a much, much stronger conference than the peewee East for the past decade. lol. –I am a Bulls fan.

  22. TominNH - Jun 4, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    It sure is………… but Id advise not putting up any balloons in the rafters! LOL

  23. amazing grace - Jun 4, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    lucas yes stats are nice and poignant, but as everyone has pointed out, most of the celtics wins were against a smaller pool of teams and yes they have won against the lakers 9 times, but to say they are the number 1 defence, gimme a break boston had a losing record against the west try looking that up, they got spanked by okc and phx both of which are better teams offensively and even defensively than the crippled 3 and as you saw last night the much vaunted celt d got spanked hard by teh so called weak lakers, oh and one more thing to guys like you that beat teh celtic drum the teams they beat were all sub par teams even magic and cleveland so they had the best records…uhm if lakers were in the eastern division we probably would go for 72 win season like the bulls, seriously though i appreciate the celtics they are a great franchise …of yesteryear, but to be a franchise of today hell you have to have more titles than 1 in the last “24” years. oh and when your adding those stats add the fact that the lakers having gone to the bog dance 30 times they also have the WINNINGEST record ever to get them there 30 times. stick that in your celtic pipe and smoke it…

  24. Wake-Up - Jun 4, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Boy you nailed that one Genius. Predictions for game 2?

  25. Krazzzy4 - Jun 7, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Hmmm…so, whatever happened to the Lakers last night??? The BIG strong Kobe Bryant’s team from the West got crushed by just 2 of the Boston’s players that actually participated. By the way, the Celtics also stole a home-field advantage from the Lakers already on Game 2. They have won more titles in the past and will continue winning more titles in the future. These Fakers are not getting past the Celtics…BOSTON CELTICS!

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