BOSTON (CBS) — When it comes to owning a storied history in the game of basketball, no other professional franchises can lay a claim like the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The two rivals are, simply put, royalty of the hardwood.
The two franchises have claimed 34 of the 74 titles that have been handed out throughout NBA history, with each hanging 17 championship banners over their respective home courts. The Celtics won 11 straight back in the days of Bill Russell and Red Auerbach, while the Lakers have upped their tally with six championships since the turn of the century.READ MORE: Stores Are Closing But This Discount Chain Plans To Move In
And when things are really right in the world of basketball, the rivals are the last two teams standing in the fight for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. That hasn’t happened in over a decade, but with the Lakers the kings of basketball with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Celtics oh so close with young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, we may be treated to another classic battle for a title sometime soon.
Until then, we have our memories. Lots and lots of memories. Most are good for the Celtics, with Boston victorious in nine of the 12 Finals showdowns with the Lakers — whether it be the Minneapolis Lakers (1959) or the ones that call Los Angeles their home.
After going dormant in the ’70s, the rivalry really picked up against in the ’80s when the two teams met in the finals three times. The Lakers were victorious in two of those matchups. WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton recently caught up with some legends from both sides — Celtics Cedric Maxwell, M.L. Carr and Gerald Henderson and Lakers Michael Cooper, Bob McAdoo (who played for both sides), and more recent members of the rivalry in Antoine Walker and Metta World Peace (now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest) — and they each shared their own fond memories from one of sport’s best rivalries.
Get On Max’s Back
Cedric Maxwell has no shortage of stories from the rivalry, but his most memorable is pretty obvious. In Boston’s 1984 title win over the Lakers, Max famously told the team he would carry them to a victory in the deciding Game 7. He did just that, and won MVP honors for the series.
But there is a lot more to that story than Max’s locker room promise.
“In Game 6 in L.A., James Worthy did the cardinal sin. I was up in the air and he pushed me in the back. I fell into the stanchion, was flailing all over the place, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to get his ass,'” recalled Max. “We had Game 7, and I remember saying that in the locker room. Larry, M.L. were sitting there talking, and I remember telling everyone not to worry, ‘Y’all get on my back and I’ll win this damn championship for you.’
“They started out and had [Kurt] Rambis on me — a man with glasses who couldn’t see me — and there was no way that was going to happen. Then they put Worthy on me, I remember scoring on him and I looked at their bench and said ‘that bitch can’t guard me.’ He dropped his head, and you know you’ve got a man when he drops his head.”
That was not Max’s only story from the series though, and Worthy was far from the only Laker that he made sure to embarrass in a game. Enter: Larry Spriggs.
If you don’t know who Larry Spriggs is, neither did Max at the time.
“Pat Riley was sitting there. Larry Spriggs and some of those bench warmers were yelling at me, ‘You ain’t this, you ain’t that.’ The ball goes out by Pat Riley and I’m the one taking the ball out of bounds. The ref is trying to hand me the ball and I told him to hold up a minute. I turn to Pat and said, ‘Put one of them [expletives] down there in the game.’
“Pat Riley turned around and put Spriggs in the game. When I put him in the torture chamber, I had about eight points. When he left the game I told him ‘next time you have a seat and you haven’t paid any money for it, you shut your damn mouth.’ Larry Spriggs never said another word.”
KC Jones’ Pre-Game Speech
While Max had all the motivation he needed against the Lakers during the ’84 Finals, Carr said that head coach K.C. Jones’ pregame speech had everyone else ready to go to battle. And Jones needed only a dozen or so words to get his players fired up.
“KC Jones gave the most motivational speech ahead of Game 7,” Carr recalls. “It was about time for the game to start and he walked to us and said, ‘Men, you’re the greatest players in the world. Go out and prove it.’ That preceded what Max said, and that was the end of his speech. We were waiting for the rest of it, but it was unbelievable.
“We almost beat the door down we were so pumped up,” said Carr.
The Celtics went out and beat the Lakers 111-102, with Max scoring a game-high 24 points. Larry Bird had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Dennis Johnson added 20 points of his own, and the Celtics captured the franchise’s 15th NBA title.
“No one thought we could beat the Lakers because they were the Thoroughbreds and we were the Clydesdales,” recalls Carr. “That was the biggest movement because we knew we were fortunate. ‘Showtime’ was real but we pulled it off.
“We’re not going to talk about ’85. Let’s stop this right here,” added Carr. (Unfortunately, we’ll get to that in a minute.)
What About The Ball?
Gerald Henderson’s game-saving steal in Game 2 will go down as one of the great moments in NBA Finals history. He looks back fondly of that play, which forced overtime in the eventual Boston win, while the Lakers, of course, do not.
“James Worthy would say today that he did not want the ball in his hands. McAdoo threw it into James and it was elementary basketball, you just rotate to the next guy. He just threw it up and I said, ‘I can’t believe he did that.’ It was like a cupcake,” said Henderson, whose layup with 13 seconds left tied the game at 113-113.
“I’m still angry about it today,” said Cooper. “I don’t let things go easy.”
But as it turns out, that wasn’t Henderson’s biggest swipe of the series.
When the final buzzer sounded in the 1984 Finals, Gerald Henderson made a mad dash to get the basketball. Henderson knew that fans were going to rush the court after the Boston victory, but it wasn’t a fan he had to wrestle with for the ball.READ MORE: 103-Year-Old Man Celebrates Birthday While Getting COVID Vaccine At Lowell General Hospital
“When the last shot went up, and it may have been Cooper who took the shot from the top of the key (Max chimed in to say that he blocked it), the ball hit the rim and I said ‘I’m going to get the ball.’ I was on the bench, and I looked to my left when the ball went up and came back out, I saw some real light streaking on the court,” remembers Henderson. “It was Danny [Ainge]. We both went for the ball, there were people all over the court, and Danny reached down to get it and I pushed him. The ball went right between his legs and I have that ball today.”
Watch Henderson share his favorite stories here.
Fallout From McHale’s Takedown Of Rambis
Today’s NBA is slightly different from the NBA of the ’80s. Case in point: Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.
That would never happen in today’s game, and if it did, the clotheslining party would probably be gone for a year. Back in 1983, McHale was hit with… a foul.
Henderson was not involved in the play, but after nearly 40 years, he had to clear the air with Michael Cooper about the fracas.
“I had nothing to do with it, but Michael Cooper, I got a bone to pick with you,” said Henderson.
“I got in your ass on that play,” laughed Cooper.
“I had nothing to do with it!” yelled Henderson.
Henderson also recalls that the Celtics were able to throw Kareem off his game that evening.
“In that same game, Kareem got a rebound and started flinging his elbow, and Larry said ‘What the heck are you doing?” Kareem went off, and Max said, ‘We got him now.’ When you get the thinker mad, we got him now,” he said.
And Now, The Lakers
It would only be fair to highlight the fond memories from the former Lakers, which are not so fond for Celtics fans. For Michael Cooper, being part of the Lakers team that finally beat the Celtics in the Finals in 1985 will stay with him forever.
“Growing up in L.A., my uncle was a Celtics fan. Havlicek, KC Jones, Russell, he would sit me down and make me watch how the Celtics played because they were a true champion,” he recalls. “Growing up I wasn’t a Celtics fan, I wanted the Lakers.
“To see them constantly lose to the Celtics, and when we got our opportunity in ’84 and got our butts kicked, coming back in ‘85 for the Boston Massacre, with Scott Wedman hitting all those three-point shots, we thought it was over with,” said Cooper. “But we went back, got ourselves together and won. One of the things I wanted to do was stop all those fans from coming onto the court. That was the one thing I wanted to do; beat them there and stop that.
“That championship wasn’t just for the team in ’85, it was for all the teams that couldn’t beat the Celtics,” he said. “We got to shut M.L., Henderson, and Max up.”
Bob McAdoo was part of that ’85 championship team for the Lakers, and is one of the few players to play for both organizations, playing one year with the Celtics in 1979. He didn’t enjoy his time in Boston, given the city’s racial issues, and he wasn’t too pleased during his time with the Lakers because Pat Riley relegated him to the bench.
His memory of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry came from a complaint dodged by the Celtics about his uniform during one of their Finals showdown.
“You dirty ass Celtics had the league come in our locker room over me and Cooper wearing our long socks. We wore them for 82 games, and they’re going make us wear little booty socks making us look like – I can’t even say it on air,” shouted McAdoo. “We didn’t do it, we didn’t care. We’d pay the fine and wear the socks we had worn all season.”
It kind of sounds like Red Auerbach would have something to do with that fashion complaint.
The last time the Celtics and the Lakers battled for a title was in 2010, the days of Boston’s second Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen going up against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. It was a rematch of the 2008 Finals won by Boston, and 2010 was an absolute war over seven games, with the Lakers coming out victorious after erasing a 10-point Boston lead late in Game 7.
Metta had his role in the series, though he recalls it really wasn’t an important one because of No. 24.
“I remember being so ready, but Kobe — I never ever had to not do anything. I literally didn’t have to contribute,” he said. “We were in Game 5 in Boston and I watched Kobe get 25 straight points from the third to the fourth. I remember just watching him. The ball almost hit me in the face because I was watching him for five minutes.”
As for the Game 7 comeback, it was Derek Fisher who inspired the troops in Los Angeles.
“I remember it being so tough, being down 10 points going into the fourth. I was thinking, ‘My goodness, this might be over.’ Fisher comes to the bench and gave the most amazing speech. ‘Guys, we’re down 10, but where else would you rather be?’ We just kept playing and playing and we won the title,” he said. “It was an amazing ride.”
Just a friendly reminder that the Celtics have won nine of the 12 Finals matchups with the Lakers.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Click here to check out all four segments from our Celtics-Lakers Rivalry Special on Sports Final!