Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lakers Take the Torch

This article was originally published for CelticsLife.com



After letting a double-digit lead slip away in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Celtics let more than a game slide between their finger tips. This group had a chance to write a chapter of their own in the storied history of this franchise. One championship is not enough. In a story book that contains heroes who've won as many as eleven and as little as three - one ring is merely a footnote. 

"The best part about playing in Boston is the worst part as well," Doc Rivers said back in May. "There's great history. It's a great city, a great sports city. Probably as good as you can get".

A great history and fantastic legacy to compete with. Unfortunately: with Tom Thibodeau leaving for the Bulls, the age of the roster, and uncertainty about the return of Doc Rivers, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace - this year could've very well been this Celtics squad's last chance for a championship run.

Meanwhile, the Boston franchise now finds itself holding onto a slim one banner lead in all time championships. While the chance for Boston to make a repeat appearance in the Finals next year is marginal, it wouldn't be unrealistic to picture Kobe and co. repeating for the third straight year. That would put the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers tied with Boston at 17 trophies.

The Celtics' standing as the top franchise in the NBA is rapidly slipping away. In the '50s and '60s, Bill Russell dominated LA on the way to giving Boston a nice buffer with 11 championships. Yet, the Lakers have caught up. While Boston still holds a decisive 9-3 advantage in Finals head-to-heads, the stat is a bit misleading. 

Seven of those victories were earned by Russell's teams - over 30 years ago. The tale's looked a bit different in recent years. Since the Lakers beat the Celtics for the first time in 1985, L.A. holds a 3-1 lead in the epic clashes. Furthermore, since the Bird-era, the Lakers have won 10 championships compared to the Celtics' 4. Both teams failed to earn a ring as they watched Michael Jordan in the '90s, but it was LA whom - behind Shaq and Kobe - picked themselves up to return to NBA dominance in the 2000s. The Celtics, on the other hand, did not recover from the death of Len Bias and the existence of Chris Wallace until 2008. 

After Thursday's loss, it's hard not to argue that the Lakers are the best franchise in the NBA. They've been able to stay consistent - missing the playoffs only five times in team history. On Thursday, the Celtics had a chance to put a road block in LA's success - becoming the team to win 2 championships in the last 3 years. Instead, it's the Lakers who earn those bragging rights. This generation's Lakers have won 5 championships, while the modern day Celtics have brought Boston only one. 

In a way, Bill Russell handing LA their 16th trophy is rather fitting. The man who established Boston as the most successful franchise in NBA history hands the Lakers the item that puts them inches closer to taking over that spot. While the hatred between the two teams would never allow the torch to pass pleasantly - the Lakers have taken it. 

Despite this, the future is not all that dim for Boston. While the face of the team will change, the emergence of Rondo gives Celtics fans hope. It's no secret that the young point guard holds the future of this franchise in his over-sized hands. His progress and the help he receives could spur a new era of riches in Celtic history.

Boston has a lot of ground to make up on LA. If they want to re-establish themselves as the class of the league, they need to continue to stand in the Lakers' way. Their best chance to do that is with Rondo.

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