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Celtics vs. Lakers -- again
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Celtics vs. Lakers - again

The Boston Celtics have won 17 NBA titles. They've beaten the Los Angeles Lakers for eight of them - including, most recently, 2008. The Lakers own 15 titles, two at the hands of the Celtics but none since 1987, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played in shorts that would test public decency laws today.

The rivalry opens a new chapter as the two square off in the 2010 finals starting Thursday night (June 3) in L.A.

For two generations of pro basketball fans - baby boomers who came of age in the '60s and Gen X'ers who grew up in the '80s - Boston vs. L.A. is how the NBA finals are supposed to look. Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain. Hard-nosed defense vs. "Showtime" fast breaks. Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson. Dilapidated Boston Garden vs. star-studded L.A. Forum.

The 1984 finals match-up sticks out as one of the great moments in NBA history. That was before the league expanded, watering down the talent pool. Guys like Kevin McHale, a future Hall of Famer in his fourth year in the league, didn't even start for Boston. Bird and Magic were at the height of their careers.

The series lasted the full seven games, with each team winning one game on the road. But the Celtics prevailed in games 5 and 7 in sweltering, 90-degree conditions at the old Boston Garden.

Some will argue that the NBA was at its best when Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls were winning six titles in the '90s, but Jordan never had a counterpart like Bird and Magic did. Has anyone?

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