THE RETURN OF RIVALRIES
Conventional wisdom says that the resurgence of the NBA’s most storied rivalries is predicated on the relocation of the League’s marquee names. Last year, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Pau Gasol helped rekindle the Lakers/Celtics blood rivalry, bringing the “Beat L.A.!” chants back to life as the C’s added their 17th championship.
But ask any Laker fan — who now despises Boston as much as their parents, grandparents, and gray-haired bartenders did — who it is that they really can’t stand on the Celtics, and it’s not who you might expect. Even more than Pierce, Allen and Garnett, it’s the other guys, the role players like Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Glen Davis and Eddie House who weren’t the focus of their attack, but ended up being the difference between going home empty-handed and smoking a victory cigar on a Duck Tour of Boston.
That’s the beauty of a rivalry. While the big names always garner some serious negative attention, it’s the other guys who everyone really hates. Although Elton Brand’s presence in Philadelphia helps to set off the bad blood between the Sixers and the Celtics, he won’t be the guy that Celtics fans pull their hair out over. Hearken back to the ’80s, when these two franchises were both in the playoffs for 11 of 12 years from 1980 through 1991. More than Dr. J or Moses, Boston fans belabored Andrew Toney. And on the other side, Philly clamored with disgust over the play of Dennis Johnson and Cedric Maxwell instead of Bird and McHale.
With the Lakers, Celtics and Sixers all threatening to top the 50-win plateau for the first time since 1990, these rivalries will come back to life. Along with emerging and re-emerging feuds between the Cavs and Wizards, Pistons and Celtics, Spurs and Hornets, and Suns and Lakers, everyone will be getting an earful — especially the guys who usually slip under the radar.
Which NBA rivalry is currently the most intense?
The New “Best Season Ever”
1. Chris Paul will win MVP…
2. …but Paul Pierce will prove he’s the best player in the world
3. The Clippers are alive
4. Ron Artest will get some MVP votes
5. Vince Carter will give a damn