Sorry Bill Simmons, the 1987 Lakers, not the 1986 Celtics, are the greatest team ever

September 9, 2014

For any self-respecting NBA fan on the West Coast, challenging Bill Simmons and his ever-increasing sphere of Celtics propaganda is not merely an option, it is a duty. The DSH intends to fight all the battles it can, starting with BS claims that the 1986 Boston Celtics were better than the 1987 Lakers.

Last month it was announced that Bill Simmons (hereinafter "Simmons" or "BS")  was going to get his own NBA pregame show on ESPN. My first thought was: Let's hope somebody on the the new "Grantland Basketball Show" will call BS on his BS more often, because the last thing any non-Celtics fan needs is to hear that man articulate his vision of the league (and it's history) unchallenged.

That thought process ultimately triggered me to finally address a point of contention I've had with Simmons that I'd tabled for some time.

Like many other basketball nerds, I love to make lists and ruminate for lengthy periods of time on urgent topics such as "Who was the greatest NBA team of all time?"

For fans who love to indulge in that sort of idle speculation, BS's best-selling book from several years ago entitled, “The Book of Basketball” (hereinafter “The Book”), is an interesting enough read. I will freely admit that I enjoyed several parts of the tome even though Simmons' love for the Boston Celtics colors nearly every opinion he gives where his little green goblins are concerned.

In one particular chapter, Simmons takes on the task of ranking  the Greatest NBA Teams of All-Time. Unsurprisingly, he concludes that the 1986 Celtics were the best team ever. His top 3 teams of all-time, in fact, are the (1) 1986 Boston Celtics; (2) 1996 Chicago Bulls; and (3) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

Now as I just stated, the loyalty BS shows for his favorite team doesn't necessarily preclude non-Celtics fans from enjoying the book and even finding some humor in the BS bias at times. For example, I grew up cheering for the Lakers in the 1980's but I can still appreciate a lot of The Book.

But what is far less tolerable is Simmons engaging in the pretense of "serious" arguments that are dishonest, logically inconsistent, and fundamentally disingenuous to support those thinly veiled pro-Celtics opinions. That's neither funny nor entertaining, and if you happen to believe that a writer doesn't need to be deceitful in order to present an entertaining and informed chapter ranking the greatest teams ever, it is downright infuriating at times.

The purpose of this analysis is to delve into the plethora of dishonest and obfuscating arguments BS makes to support his conclusion that the 1986 Celtics are better than the team that is actually the greatest of all-time, the 1987 Lakers.

Figuring Out the Sneaky BS

Although it isn't the primary focus of this opinion piece, I feel I should first get out of the way that I personally agree with Simmons' assertion that the 1986 Celtics were better than the 1996 Bulls and would probably defeat them. (Just as I believe the 1987 Lakers would beat both teams). However, I would concede to advocates of the ’96 Bulls that that opinion is certainly impacted by how I view the “different eras” the two teams played in.

In the mid-1980's there were 23 teams in the NBA. Less than ten years later in 1996, there were 29 teams. That factor (along with the declines of the Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons dynasties within a few years of each other at the beginning of the 1990's) frankly made for weaker teams overall and fewer really good teams at the top.

Nonetheless if  you think the “expansion diluted the league’s talent pool” theory is a fallacy, or at least is overstated, then you are more likely to be impressed by the ’96 Bulls 72-10 record and consider them the greatest ever for that reason among others.

However if, like me, you believe there was significantly stiffer competition in the mid-1980’s than in the mid-1990’s, you are almost surely going to see both the ‘87 Lakers and ‘86 Celtics, two closely matched teams at their best, as better than the ‘96 Bulls. That is, of course, if you’re reasonable and care to be consistent.

That would mean you are unlike BS, who in The Book appears to reluctantly recognize he must place the ‘87 Lakers very high on the list so that it appears that his Lakers hatred hasn't destroyed some semblance of objectivity. Nonetheless, BS conveniently prefers to put the  '87 Lakers below the ’96 Bulls on his all-time list. Why?

BS prefers this pecking order because then he can create a"head-to-head" match-up between the '86 Celtics and the '96 Bulls and consistently hammer the "tougher era” argument against the '96 Bulls. That's a lot easier than comparing his ’86 Celtics to an '87 Lakers team from the exact same era, because it would mean having to face the ugly truth that largely the same teams played each other in the 1985 and 1987 NBA Finals – and the Lakers won both times!

Losses in the NBA Finals the season before and the season after 1986 to the Lakers aren't something any '86 Celtics proponent should be allowed to completely dismiss.

[*It is especially hypocritical for BS to substantially ignore '85 and '87 when discussing his choice for the '86 Celtics, considering how he vociferously complains in The Book that a 68-win 1967 Sixers shouldn't be ranked higher than the 60's Celtics teams that beat the 76ers in the the seasons preceding ‘67 and the season after. Get used to that kind of BS maxim in The Book: It is okay to argue one way to benefit one Celtics team (1986) and then argue the opposite way when it helps another Celtics cause (1960's Celtics).]

To better understand the argument Simmons is making about the 1986 Celtics and the comparison he is trying to avoid with the 1987 Lakers, a brief history lesson/reminder is needed about the Lakers and Celtics of the mid-80’s.

1984 – 1987 Lakers-Celtics Background

In the 1984 NBA Finals the Celtics defeated the Lakers, 4-3, and Larry Bird was MVP of that series. The general national sentiment (after what might have been the greatest NBA Finals of all-time) was that the Lakers had seemingly squandered numerous opportunities to take control of that series and the Celtics had proved themselves to be the more mentally tough team. Comments by both Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in later years suggest they both believe this.

The next season, in 1985, the Lakers starting five consisted of Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, Kurt Rambis, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Their three best players off the bench were pseudo-starter/6th man Michael Cooper and veteran future HOFers Bob McAdoo and Jamaal Wilkes. (Wilkes never played in the playoffs that season after suffering a season ending injury. It would be his final season in the NBA.)

That same year the Celtics started Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. (*It is important to note that the Boston Celtics started the exact same five guys in the 1985, 1986, and 1987 NBA Finals.) The top three Boston guys off the bench that season were Cedric Maxwell, Scott Wedman, and Ray Williams.

In the 1985 NBA Finals, the Lakers defeated the Celtics fairly decisively, 4-2. After being blown out in Game 1, the Lakers came back to win 4 of the last 5 games. Game 6 was won at the Boston Garden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was MVP of the series.

In 1986 the Boston Celtics lost Maxwell and Williams but undoubtedly improved with the addition of backup center and future HOFer Bill Walton and backup guard Jerry Sichting. (The loss of the once-productive Cedric Maxwell also helped the team for another reason: according to Larry Bird “Cornbread” had been become a cancer on the team with his attitude.) Furthermore, Kevin McHale also just got better in 1986 than he was in 1985.

The C’s ultimately finished with an NBA-best record of 67-15 that season, Bird was named MVP for the third straight season, and Walton won 6th man of the Year.

That same '86 season the Lakers replaced McAdoo and Wilkes in their rotation with free agent Maurice Lucas and rookie draft pick A.C. Green. Although still capable, the veteran Lucas was disliked by many on the team and created chemistry issues.

(Jeff Pearlman’s book "Showtime" tells a great story about this: One game in the '86 season during a Lakers scoring run Magic Johnson called a timeout. When asked by head coach Pat Riley why he had suddenly called timeout, Magic pointed over to Lucas and told Riley to take him out.“I can’t play with that motherf*****!”)

The Lakers still would finish 62-20 that season, but in the 1986 playoffs the 39-year old Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was 1st team All-NBA that season, went up against Houston’s  young “Twin Towers” of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson and finally began to show to show the strain of being the unquestioned #1 offensive option for the team. Ultimately, the top-seeded Lakers were upset by the Houston Rockets in the 1986 Western Conference Finals.

The Celtics would go on to defeat the Rockets team in six games for the 1986 NBA title.

In 1987, Walton was plagued by injuries throughout the season and was ineffective in the 1987 playoffs after coming off injury. The Celtics still finished with 59 wins but suffered some further injuries to McHale and Parish in the playoffs. Still all of the key players on the 1986 NBA Title team still actually played some in the playoffs with the exception of reserve Scott Wedman, who missed the playoffs entirely.

(The most notable injury was the broken foot of Kevin McHale. Nonetheless, McHale still averaged 21 points and 9 rebounds per game on over 58% shooting from the field in the 1987 NBA Finals. It should be noted that McHale’s foot wasn't broken during the Celtics two regular season games/losses with the 1987 Lakers when he averaged 22.5 points and 10.5 rebounds on 56%.)

As for the Lakers in 1987, Magic Johnson took his game to the next level in winning the league’s MVP award (the first of 3 he would win) and every relevant returning Lakers player other than Kareem - Byron Scott, James Worthy, A.C. Green, and Michael Cooper – had their best season until that point. Finally, the Lakers essentially clinched the NBA Championship in the eyes of many when they acquired elite post-defender Mychal Thompson after the All Star Break. They would go on to easily defeat the Celtics in the NBA Finals, 4-2.

Now keeping this history in mind, let’s examine some of Simmons' specific reasons for why he believes the 1986 Celtics are better than the 1987 Lakers (and every other team). Some of these reasons discussed below are ones BS specifically states, others he just implies.

BS EXHIBIT #1 – The greatness of the ' 86 Celtics roster, especially in the frontcourt. Celtics had all-time great forwards Bird and McHale in their primes in 1986. The “Parish/Walton center duo” combined to average an impressive 24.9 PPG, 15.2 RPG, and 3.1 APG. 

No rational observer would dispute the greatness of either Bird or McHale. They were the two brightest stars of a Celtics team that in fact did have the greatest frontcourt in NBA History.

Nonetheless, as impressive as both of those players were in 1986, BS forgets -- or more likely intentionally doesn't mention because it’s inconvenient -- that both Larry Bird and Kevin HcHale had even better statistical seasons in 1987 than in 1986.

Bird’s stats improved as follows: PPG: 25.8 to 28.1, FG%: 49.6% to 52.5%, APG: 6.8 to 7.6. (Only decline was his RPG: 9.8 to 9.2). His PER increased slightly from 25.6 to 26.4.

McHale improved even more in 1987: PPG: 21.3 to 26.1, FG%: 57.4% to 60.4%, RPG: 8.1 to 9.9, APG: 2.3 to 2.6. His PER increased from 21.6 to 24.0 and he joined Bird on the All-NBA 1st Team.

Yet despite those nearly universally improved numbers by the Celtics two best players, the Lakers clearly outplayed the Celtics during the 1987 regular season and the playoffs.

BS also specifically notes the impressive stats of the Parish/Walton duo in 1986 as further proof of the greatness of the '86 Celtics -- and he's right they are impressive. Walton was an incredible passer in particular and had a unique feel for the game of basketball.

[Side note 1: I personally love the "Big Red Head" - arguably the 2nd greatest player in NCAA hoops history - for both his playing career and hilarious announcing - but his selection as one of the NBA's 50 greatest ever is more about what could have been if not injured with the Blazers than what he was able to do for more than a few years on the court.]

[Side note 2: Don't forget that  the 1987 Lakers “Abdul-Jabbar/Thompson center duo” averaged 27.6 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 3.4 APG. Less rebounds, but more points than the’86 Celtics center duo.]

There is no dispute that that '86 Celtics forwards/center combined advantage would have been very real against any team in NBA history. But perhaps this advantage is more diminished against the versatile '87 Lakers than any other imaginable opponent.

James Worthy may not quite be Larry Bird, but he was a perennial all star at small forward who was named one of the 50 greatest players ever in 1996. Michael Cooper often played the 3 as well (doing a better job defending Larry Bird, by Bird's own admission, than anyone else ever did).

The power forward combo of A.C. Green and Mychal Thompson off the bench (with occasional help from Kurt Rambis) were superior defenders. Thomspon in particular made it tough for McHale.

Finally if we are really comparing the center position of the '86 Celtics and the '87 Lakers, talking about "Parish/Walton" or "Abdul-Jabbar/Thompson" duos is limited in its helpfulness. That's because usually only one of these big men played center for either the Lakers or Celtics down the stretch of a game, and thus it is not an insignificant fact that even at 39-years old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still the best of that foursome.

The overall point here being that although the '86 Celtics had a better frontcourt than the '87 Lakers, it is a lot less of an advantage than they would have against most every other team (like the '96 Bulls for example).

[*Of course we may as well quickly finish up the other part of the comparison with the '87 Lakers that BS avoids- the Showtime Lakers had a substantial backcourt advantage over the '86 Celtics. Dennis Johnson is a HOFer, but Magic Johnson was still substantially better than him (the gap is even larger than the gap between Bird and Worthy), and Byron Scott and DPOY Michael Cooper combined were also far better than Danny Ainge and Jerry Sichting (except perhaps in the eyes of ultra-zealous Boston fans and white supremacists).]

I acknowledge its hardly a blowout, but the '87 Lakers would have beaten the '86 Celtics plain and simple. The really great thing though, is that we don't have to speculate too much about this particular match up because it basically already happened! And pretty much these same Lakers kicked these same Celtics a** in 1985 and 1987.

BS EXHIBIT #2 - The Celtics went 40-1 at home in the 1985-86 regular season.

This is one of the silliest and most insignificant stats that gets cited in the the greatest team ever debate, but proponents of the ’86 Celtics sure love it.

Even though regular season win totals should hardly define a team’s greatness, one can still see the relevance of pointing out a good overall record.

But does a disproportionately great home record indicate superiority? Last time anyone checked a win (or loss) on the road means the same as one at home. The ‘86 Celtics lost 15 regular season games that year – Is it really better that fourteen of those were on the road? In an all-time greatest team tournament, would the 1986 Celtics get to play every game in Boston? I wouldn't think so.

Furthermore, while much is made of the 1986 Celtics all-time best 40-1 home record, it is revealing to look at other examples of how significant a great home record is. Do you know who is tied for the second best regular season home record of all-time? The 1987 Celtics.

The ’87 Celtics went an almost equally impressive 39-2 in the regular season at home. Unlike in 1986, in 1987 the Celtics lost at home to the Lakers in the regular season, otherwise they too would have had a 40-1 home record.

After all, if a great home record indicates overall greatness, then why weren't the 1987 Celtics dominant champions? And if you blame injuries, then how come the often-cited “injuries” they suffered that year didn't diminish their home record even further?

I have never seen or heard 1986 Celtics advocates like BS mention the 39-2 home record of the '87 Celtics and the reason is this: If you realize that the ’87 Celtics had basically the same spectacular home record as the ’86 team, but were easily beaten in the NBA Finals that year by the Lakers, then it might make you realize: (a) a great home record doesn't necessarily mean that much; and (b) the '86 Celtics would likely have suffered the same fate as the '87 Celtics did if they played the '87 Lakers.

BS EXHIBIT #3 (implied) - The 1986 Celtics went 67-15 (.817) and the 1987 Lakers only went 65-17 (.793).

How important is a team’s regular season record in defining that team’s historical greatness? It's a factor for sure, but where do we draw the line as to how much it really matters?

Rather than trying to answer that tricky question though, let’s focus on this specific situation. The 1986 Celtics won 67 games and the 1987 Lakers won 65. Does the two-game difference in the regular season win total mean something?

Well, it certainly didn't mean much to the '87 Lakers. They casually dropped the final two games of the regular season in 1987 as their head coach Pat Riley rested his starters the entire fourth quarter of the next-to-last game -  claiming he only played them at all so the road fans wouldn't be disappointed - and sat Kareem out entirely the final game of the season. Does anyone seriously doubt whether the 1987 Lakers win those games if they felt it really mattered?

The other important thing to remember is that in 1987 the Lakers didn't acquire PF/C Mychal Thompson until after the All Star Break.

BS revealingly spends considerable time in The Book ranting about how unfair it was for the rest of the NBA that the Lakers "stole" Thompson via trade in the second-half of the 1987 season. Although BS primarily whines about this because he is a sore loser, he is absolutely correct in recognizing what a big deal it was.

The Lakers went 7-2 over their first nine games while integrating Thompson into the lineup. Thereafter they won 21 of their next 22 games (the one loss coming in a game where Magic Johnson played only 4 minutes) before finishing the year by dropping the final two "meaningless" (as described by the LA Times the next morning) games.

Even including those final two giveaways to conclude the season, the '87 Lakers went an extremely impressive 28-5 (.848) in the regular season once Thompson was traded to the team.

BS EXHIBIT #4 – The ’87 Lakers weren't that good on defense because the “stats” say so. Also, Sleepy Floyd had that one great game against the Lakers in the 1987 playoffs which proves Michael Cooper was unable to defend penetrating guards.

It is in his effort to take down the glory of the ’87 Lakers that BS appears to anticipate the objections that some NBA fans might have for his choosing the '86 Celtics over the '87 Lakers. After a few placid compliments about the '87 Lakers, BS gets to his real purpose and cites two principal reasons for not ranking them higher on his list. Both of his reasons reveal more about BS’s own character than the 1987 Lakers.

Anti-’87 Lakers Defense Reason # 1 - “Ultimately, [the 1987 Lakers] have to be ranked third for two reasons: [1] Defensively they were somewhere between okay and good—sixth in opponent’s FG percentage, twelfth in points allowed, fourteenth in forcing turnovers, and last in defensive rebounds….” - Bill Simmons (My emphasis in underlined.)

First, stats like opponents FG% and points allowed can be helpful in understanding how good a team’s defense is, but it's misleading to look at them in total isolation. The style, pace, and potency of a team’s offense often influence the meaning of such statistics. For example, the 1987 Lakers easily led the NBA in point differential that year.

Second, by basically saying the '87 Lakers were mediocre at “forcing turnovers” in the context of his larger point, it's fair to conclude that Simmons is implying that the amount of turnovers a team forces compared to the rest of the league directly relates to how good that team is on defense, and by extension, how good they are overall.

On the surface, this might appear true – after all, who can deny that it helps to take the ball away from your opponent without them getting a shot as often as possible? Yet, is that stat a real indicator of team success?

The slightest research suggests that Simmons may want to re-think that proposition, considering the 1986 Celtics happened to finish dead last in total turnovers forced in the NBA as well as second-to-last in defensive TOV% - and this is the team that BS asserts is the greatest of all time!

Did BS hope everyone was so gullible that they wouldn't notice the double standard or did BS just plain eff-up here? My usual instinct with him is the former, but here the mistake is so silly that it quite possibly could be the latter.

So while BS wasn't exactly “lying” about the 1987 Lakers not forcing a ton of turnovers in comparison to the rest of the NBA that year, he is being incredibly disingenuous about how much he thinks that stat matters. (But for an example of an honest-to-goodness boldfaced BS lie see the next few paragraphs below).

Finally, I must admit I was genuinely surprised when Simmons confidently declared the 1987 Lakers to be last in defensive rebounds. I had never heard of an NBA team with the best record in the league and the largest point differential ever being that bad in such a basic category. So I looked it up. Appropriately, the stat is typical BS – as in totally untrue.

In 1987 the Lakers grabbed the 3rd most total defensive rebounds in the league, behind only the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics that year.

He can’t be that wrong, right? Although he was hardly clear, maybe BS was trying to reference defensive rebounding efficiency? Nope, the 1987 Lakers were a middle-of-the-pack 13th in the NBA in that category that season. No stat out there justifies saying the Lakers were “last in defensive rebounding” that season.

You can be the final judge, but in my opinion this is not a “mistake” by Simmons. This is BS lying for no other reason than because he wants to mislead readers in order to bolster his attack on the 1987 Lakers.

Anti-’87 Lakers Defense Reason #2 – Simmons further asserts in The Book that “only Cooper and Thompson were elite” defensive players for the Lakers in 1987.

I will ignore the implied and false BS criticism that the other '87 Lakers were mediocre or bad defenders and instead point out that at least Simmons recognized how good those two were. Of course, it would be hard for him or any 80's Celtics fans to forget, considering they were probably the toughest defenders, of Bird and McHale respectively, in the NBA at the time. (Bird openly acknowledges Cooper was his toughest defender,)

But then BS outrageously states that even Michael Cooper – the 1987 NBA Defensive Player of the Year – couldn't defend elite penetrating guards.

The evidence for this assertion? Only BS's joyous recollection of how Eric “Sleepy” Floyd torched the Lakers for 51 points in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals that year. Of course omitted is that Floyd’s big game was the only loss suffered by the 1987 Lakers prior to the Finals - they went 11-1 in the Western Conference playoffs - as is the fact Sleepy was held under 20 points in each of the four other games in that series.

Funny how BS doesn't make the same critique of his 1986 Celtics when they let a young Michael Jordan go for 49 and 63 points (still a playoff record) at the Boston Garden in his first two career playoff games. Using BS's own logic, shouldn't that say something about the '86 Celtics defense?

Regardless, BS then confidently asserts how he exposed “a pretty glaring weakness” of the 1987 Lakers, before moving on to the second major flaw in their candidacy for all-time greatest team.

BS Exhibit #5 – The banged up '87 Celtics played the '87 Lakers tough in the NBA Finals that year when they really should have been crushed.

“[2] Even with Larry Bird dragging the carcass of an eleven-man roster into the ’87 Finals…Boston came within a late-game collapse, a terrible break on a rebound, two sketchy calls and Bird’s desperation three missing by 1/55,000th of an inch of tying the series at 2-2…it’s hard to understand why the Best Lakers Team of the Magic Era didn't sweep them or at least finish them in five.” - Bill Simmons

(In The Book, Simmons also quotes fellow Celtics sycophant Bob Ryan expressing disappointment with the Lakers performance in the 1987 Finals as further evidence that this is what everyone at the time believed.)

I must admit, I exploded in laughter when I read this. It was so twisted I didn't know where to begin.

First, Simmons badly exaggerates when he suggests the Celtics actually might have beaten the Lakers in 1987 if not for a few bad calls and some tough breaks. Sorry, Billy, but the '87 Finals, though tighter than expected, was never really all that much in doubt.

The Lakers easily won games 1 and 2 of the 1987 Finals at home by comfortable margins of 13 and 19 (the games weren't as close as even those healthy margins indicate) and only the most ardent Celtics fan believed that Boston might possibly win a game in LA during that series. Fortunately for the Celtics however, the 2-3-2 format allowed them to play the next three games in the Boston Garden.

The Celtics then went on to display admirable determination by securing a close Game 3 win at home. But in Game 4, after starting out strong and securing a lead late into the fourth quarter, Boston made several mistakes down the stretch. With two seconds left, Magic Johnson's running hook gave the Lakers the lead and Bird's brick at the buzzer sealed the win for the Lakers.

BS's comments suggest it was significant that the series was “almost 2-2” -- though considering how close Game 3 was, it's significant that the series was “almost 4-0” as well.

Up 3-1 in the real world, Boston played with great determination, trying desperately to avoid having the Lakers finish them off on their home court as they did two years before. The Lakers simply didn't match that intensity and were defeated in Game 5 by double digits. The teams then went back to Los Angeles and the Lakers won Game 6 by double digits like everyone expected. Ho hum.

 (*Maybe all Celtics-loving writers are incapable of seeing straight when they play the Lakers?  In 2008, the Celtics beat the Lakers in six games. The key game was Game 4 in which the Celtics came back from down 24 points in LA and beat the Lakers to go up 3-1. But it hardly mattered to Bob Ryan that the series had been "almost 2-2" as he and the East Coast Media jubilantly proclaimed it a "six-game sweep.")

Now I would have no problem with Simmons or anyone else giving the '87 Celtics credit for displaying a fighting spirit and taking the series to six games. They indeed showed a ton of heart against a clearly superior '87 Lakers team.

But Simmons goes another way entirely. No, he says, those banged up Celtics don’t deserve credit for their toughness as much as the '87 Lakers deserve ridicule for not mopping the floor with them.


Remember, these are the 1987 Celtics that:

(1) Had the second-best regular season home record in NBA history at 39-2.
(2) Were only one year removed from being BS’s greatest team of all-time.
(3) Despite being banged up, started the same five guys they did in '86.
(4) Were still good enough to defeat the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals – a team that BS expresses an extremely high regard for. [Simmons actually declares the 1989 Pistons – with nearly the exact same nucleus (sub Aguirre for Dantley) – to be the 4th greatest team in NBA history!]

So is it really that surprising to BS that they won a couple of games at the Boston Garden that series, or is he more likely manufacturing an excuse to take down the '87 Lakers?

Lastly, criticizing the '87 Lakers for taking six games to beat the Celtics – a 59-win team that season – is just another example of BS hypocrisy. In another part of The Book, Simmons implies he is deeply impressed that his all-time great '86 Celtics were able to dispatch, in his words, a “mildly terrifying” 51-win Houston Rockets team in six games. Give me a break.


While one can point to dubious “facts” and "reasoning" throughout The Book, Simmons' greatest error in thinking seems to be the one made most commonly by knowledgeable but overzealous fans. As a rabid Boston supporter, BS fundamentally believes that everything revolves around his beloved Celtics.

Thus, when at one point discussing the Celtics 1985 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, BS concludes that the Celtics only lost because they failed to pound it inside enough and dominate the boards.

As noted above, the 1987 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers he explains by citing Celtic injuries and an inexplicable (to him) missed buzzer-beater by Larry Bird in Game 4 that he believes would have changed the series.

At another point, Simmons astonishingly asserts that the Celtics, not the Lakers, would probably have won it all in 1987 and 1988 if only the Pistons hadn't worn them down in the playoffs - ignoring the reality that the Lakers had the best record in the league both seasons and would have been heavy favorites regardless.

As we can see, conveniently, everything is always in the hands of BS's favorite team. The success and failure of the Celtics is almost wholly dependent on how healthy the Celtics are and how well they play. In 1986, the Celtics won because they were healthy and played well. Thus, they naturally are the greatest team ever. On the other hand, Lakers triumphs in the 1985, 1987, and 1988 seasons reveal little about the Lakers teams that actually won and more about what went wrong with the Celtics those years.

In fact, The Book is littered with excuses for numerous “lost” Celtics season since 1958 that are simply hilarious (although I doubt BS is trying to be funny).

Look, losing teams often have a story of some sort, and yes, sometimes extenuating factors like injuries will naturally lead to “what-if” speculations after the fact. But it’s rarely fair to conclude that an injury or even multiple injuries were the absolute difference in a playoff series, because usually that doesn't give the victorious team enough credit.

I can say with confidence that the Showtime Lakers of the ‘80’s and early 90’s similarly provide numerous opportunities for their fans to play the what-if game just like BS does with the 80's Celtics.

The Lakers can cite poor strategic decisions for their “choke” against the Celtics in 1984. They can cite serious injuries – not just being banged up, but where Lakers starters actually missed games - for NBA Finals losses to the Sixers in 1983 (James Worthy out the whole series), Pistons in 1989 (Magic injured in Game 2, Byron Scott never played), and Bulls in 1991 (Worthy and Scott miss games).

There is no question that as a rabid Lakers fan during that time, a part of me genuinely believes that the Lakers would have: (1) perhaps defeated, but at least competed much better against, an admittedly scary ’83 Sixers team if Worthy played; (2) defeated the Celtics in 1984 if they had only listened to my brilliant advice; (3) completed a "Three-peat" versus the Pistons in the 1989 Finals if Magic and Scott played; and (4) defeated, or at least taken to seven games, the Bulls in 1991 if Worthy and Scott were healthy.

But as a reasonable person I also have to confront some tough truths as well, the most obvious being that the ’83 Sixers, ’84 Celtics, ’89 Pistons, and ’91 Bulls were all damn good teams in their own right. Another uncomfortable truth -  all of those teams had a better regular season record than the Lakers, and although that's not foolproof evidence that they were better teams, it can’t be ignored. While it was possible those series could have been changed, it is far from certain.

Similarly, BS and proponents of the ’86 Celtics who point to poor strategy or injuries in order to try to explain away why the Lakers beat basically that same Celtics team in 1985 and 1987 need to facing some uncomfortable truths about their Lakers rivals of that same era.

Because it doesn't just matter what you do, it also matters what your competition does. If a competitor gets a lot better, your best may no longer be good enough. In fact, I would argue that such was the case with the improved 1987 Lakers. Once the Lakers got Mychal Thompson in 1987, they were better than the Celtics had ever been in 1986. That year, they just got better than the same Celtics, healthy or not, ever could have been.


The 1987 Lakers were the best Lakers team of the era, even better than their 1985 Championship team with many of the same players that also defeated the Celtics in the Finals. (The Lakers titles of 1980 and 1982 had only Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Cooper in common with the 1985, 1987, and 1988 Championship rosters.)

Why were the ’87 Lakers better than their own 1985 team? Because with exception of the venerable Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who declined from great in 1985 (22.0 PPG, 60% FG) to merely very good in 1987 (17.5 PPG, 56% FG), every other Lakers player in the top 7 was better on the 1987 championship roster team than the 1985 team.

Though the '87 Lakers could not rely as heavily on Kareem as they did in '85, with increased balance and depth in the rest of the playing rotation, they no longer needed to. That, and the fact that Magic Johnson simply decided to become the best overall player in the game, made them more dangerous.

How exactly did they get better? Two main reasons.

The first reason is that every one of the Lakers' returning top players from 1985 was more experienced and had now either entered their prime or were at least very nearly there by 1987. Overall, these guys were simply more polished players now.

Improvements from '85 to 87
Magic Johnson (18.3 PPG to 23.9 PPG) - NBA's MVP; now 27 yrs old
James Worthy (17.6 PPG to 19.4 PPG); now 25 yrs old
Byron Scott (16.0 PPG to 17.0 PPG); now 25 yrs old
Michael Cooper (8.6 PPG to 10.5 PPG) - DPOY; now 30 yrs old

The second reason is the addition of two players who were not on the team in 1985: A.C. Green (via the draft in 85-86) and Mychal Thompson (via trade in 86-87).

In 1987, A.C. Green (10.8 PPG) started ahead of the still-serviceable Kurt Rambis, thereby upgrading the PF position.  Additionally, Mychal Thompson (10.1 PPG), though not the scorer Bob McAdoo was for the Lakers in 1985, provided defense and rebounding that were increasingly valuable due to Kareem's diminished defensive skills. MT's production allowed the Lakers to rest Kareem, in turn allowing the legendary center to be fresh enough to still scare opposing team's down the stretch of games.

All in all, the '87 Lakers top seven players all averaged in double figures, with MVP Magic Johnson leading the league in assists as well (12.2 APG). They were a juggernaut of speed, precision, and versatility, with an utterly lethal fast break as well as dominant post players.

Lakers Head Coach Pat Riley was so confident in the greatness of his 1987 Lakers team that just days after defeating the Celtics in six games, he famously “guaranteed” the Lakers would repeat as champions again in 1988 – something that had not been done in nearly 20 years.

Was Riley just so lost in a moment of arrogance that he didn't care that he put extra pressure on the Lakers for the next year? Seriously, who does that (and actually comes through)?

I’ll tell you who: A coach trying to motivate a team he absolutely knows is simply too special to lose to anyone but themselves. The Lakers  of course, ultimately proved their head coach a prophet as they captured the NBA Title again in 1988, their fifth in nine years.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. well written, get after that east-coast propaganda machine

  2. Agree with everything said here. Simmons is biased and who could forget that little temper tantrum he threw at Doc Rivers on the air. Punk. 87 Lakers greatest ever, 86 Celtics tied for second with 83 Sixers maybe. Bulls way way down the ladder behind all 3. Wilt's philly team should be high on the list though.

  3. Bill Simmons is a good writer, but this article does do a good job of exposing a lot of his double talk where the Celtics are concerned. Although I still believe the 1986 Celtics may be the greatest, Bill Simmons is not the guy I want making that argument for me.

  4. Good article exposing Simmons bias. Bob Ryan and Jonny Most were 2 other homers. Beantown media credibility is always questionable.

  5. Typical Lakers' fan nonsense. Not nearly as bad as claiming the five Minneapolis (pre-shot clock) titles for the current squad but still bad.

    1) The '86 Celtics went through MJ, Nique and the 57 win Bucks before reaching the Finals. The '87 Lakers went through who exactly before the Finals? At least the 1982, '83 and '89 teams were able to sweep these parts of the playoffs because THERE WAS NO COMPETITION IN THE WEST.

    2) The Western Conference was much weaker in the 1980s than the Eastern counterpart. So that 65-17 record should be considered with a caveat that the Lakers were the only team in the conference with any serious title hopes (not to mention they got to play the perpetually inept Clippers five times). The '83 Sixers and the '86 Celtics in contrast had a much tougher road to get to 65-plus wins.

    3) Your diss of the 51 win Rockets is funny considering they DEMOLISHED the 62 win Lakers. Every, and I mean EVERY Celtics fan wanted to see the Lakers in 1986. We wanted a repeat of Walton blocking Kareem's skyhook.

    4) Ahhh yes the 1987 Celtics: Played in its fourth straight NBA Finals (ask the 2014 Heat about that level of difficulty) and played TWO CONSECUTIVE seven game series prior to the Lakers. Plus, Walton, McHale and Parish were all playing with injuries that would keep normal NBA players out. If the 1987 Lakers were THAT good, where's the sweep? You're telling me that this team is so good that it took them SIX games to beat an older, slower, more injured team playing in its fourth consecutive NBA Finals? Try again.

    "Remember, these are the 1987 Celtics that:

    (1) Had the second-best regular season home record in NBA history at 39-2. YET LOST TWO PLAYOFF GAMES AT HOME AND ALMOST THREE OUT OF THIRTEEN, NOT EXACTLY 39-2 MATERIAL.

    (2) Were only one year removed from being BS’s greatest team of all-time. WRONG, INJURIES MATTER. THE '87 CELTICS WERE MORE INJURED AND GOT MORESO IN THE PLAYOFFS.

    (3) Despite being banged up, started the same five guys they did in '86. ANOTHER IRRELEVANT FACT. WHO ELSE WERE THEY SUPPOSED TO START? REMEMBER THAT BIAS DIED PRIOR TO THE 1987 SEASON.

    (4) Were still good enough to defeat the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals – a team that BS expresses an extremely high regard for. [Simmons actually declares the 1989 Pistons – with nearly the exact same nucleus (sub Aguirre for Dantley) – to be the 4th greatest team in NBA history!] AND PROBABLY SHOULD'VE LOST TO. BTW YOUR LACK OF BASKETBALL KNOWLEDGE SHOWS BY STATING THE '87 PISTONS AND THE '89 PISTONS WERE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME TEAM."

    5) For as much as you claim the 1987 Lakers took the night off in the regular season, the 1986 Celtics definitely did that, especially on the long West-coast trip. Many of the 15 losses came against sub-.500 competition which the Celtics, if they weren't bored and were 70-plus win focused like the 1996 Bulls, would've beaten handily.

    6) Longest win streak: 1986 Celtics: 14 and 13, 1996 Bulls: 18, 13, 1987 Lakers: 11,10 (and this was at the end of the season against pretty much all weaker Western Conference teams)

    7) Largest loss regular season: 1986 Celtics: 18 pts (coincidentally, the only home loss that season), 1996 Bulls: 32 pts, 1987 Lakers: 24 pts

    8) Largest loss playoffs: 1986 Celtics: 15, 1996 Bulls: 21, 1987 Lakers: 15

    9) Number of double digit losses (reg season and playoffs): 1986 Celtics: 4, 1996 Bulls: 4, 1987 Lakers: a whopping 11.

    10) Finally 40-1 means something. 40-1 has not been duplicated, even by the 1996 Bulls that wen't 39-2 (not to mention the 2009 Cavaliers that didn't make the Finals). Also, it means that if there were a seven-game series and the 1986 Celtics have the homecourt that it would pretty much win all its home games and thus any series. They don't play the Finals on neutral courts.

    Nice attempt regardless but still unconvincing.

    1. Your excuse about the difficulty of 4 straight Finals, keep in mind the Lakers played in 4 straight in the 80's , and won in the fourth, in 1985 against the Celtics on Boston's home floor in Game 6. Unlike Boston and the 2014 Heat, the collapse from that long grind was not seen in the 4th year, but actually in the 5th when they lost to the twin towers in Houston. So more mental toughness that 4th year than the C's.

      Also, let's be clear. Everyone knew the Lakers were taking it in 1987. It would have been a huge upset if Boston pulled it off. Once the Thompson deal was done, it was over. No less than you hero Larry Bird, distraught at the trade said, “If San Antonio needed money, we would’ve sent them money. But to go and help the Lakers like that is just terrible.” He knew the obvious and so did everyone else.

      Thompson filled the only remaining weakness the Lakers had: a backup center and an effective defender on McHale.

    2. The Lakers' 4 straight Finals appearances was nothing. They were almost guaranteed that spot in every year in the 80s, so much so that it was an upset when they didn't win. The Western Conference in the 1980s was a joke.

      Boston's 4 straight, considering the quality of teams they faced, is a much bigger hurdle.

  6. To “Anonymous” from December 8, 2014:

    Let me respond to your silly green thoughts, outlined almost as if you were Bill Simmons himself. I will use the same bizarre numbering that you did to address
    each of your “points” one by one.

    1 & 2. “The ’86 Celtics went through MJ, Nique, and the 57 win Bucks…”

    Yes, overall the competition in the East was stiffer at the top than in the West in the 1980’s (about the same at the bottom of the conferences), but don’t exaggerate that to make it mean more than it did. The difference then is hardly comparable to the massive gulf between the superior Western Conference and inferior Eastern Conferences over the past decade. T

    It’s also particularly embarrassing to brag about going through MJ’s 30-win Bulls team.

    In any case, it still does not provide the excuse you seem to be seeking for Celtics defeats in the NBA Finals to the Lakers in 1985 and 1987.

    3. Nobody dissed the 51-win Rockets team. It was merely pointed out that you cannot call them a juggernaut and brag about the Celtics defeating them in six games in 1986….and then rip the Lakers for defeating a much better 59-win Celtics team in six games in 1987.

    Seriously, who really thinks that the talented but inconsistent 1986 Rockets team is better than the “banged up” 1987 Celtics? Who would you bet on? Hilarious how Celtics fans of all people need to be reminded that their own 1987 team, even with the injuries, was not that pathetic.

    4. You are really suggesting that the Celtics playing in their “fourth straight NBA Finals” had something to do with their 1987 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers?
    Thankfully the 1985 Lakers didn’t need that excuse when they beat the Celtics after playing in their 4th straight NBA Finals. (’82, ’83, ’84, ’85)

    1. BTW, don't call my thoughts "silly" if you can't actually refute any of them. I know you are the owner of this ridiculous blog post but still...

      If you meant "green" as in Celtics green, I take that as a compliment, thank you.

  7. (Part 2)

    (1) Yes, they lost twice in the playoffs at home, with one of those losses being to the Lakers (as it was in the regular season). So? They were still a great home team. And since when does “almost” losing matter so much?

    (2) & (3) It does matter that they were the same guys from the alleged “all-time great 1986 team” and it still matters that they played, and played substantial minutes, despite some injuries. Remember, the argument is not that the 1987 Celtics were necessarily as good as the 1986 version or that the injuries made no difference at all.

    It’s just that you can’t act like the 1987 Celtics were a pathetic joke of a team who was so bad that their winning two out of three home games in 1987 Finals somehow proves something about the 1987 Lakers.

    And of course everyone knows that if the older 2-2-1-1-1 format had been in effect, this would have been a simple 5-game series.

    (4) Read closer. It was never stated that the 1987 Pistons were equal to the 1989 Pistons, merely that they had the same nucleus of players (a point relevant because it suggests that an allegedly all-time great Detroit team in 1989 was almost certainly still an impressive foe in 1987 if they had mostly the same players).

    I am sure you are aware that the 1987 Pistons Roster and 1989 Roster shared the following seven players: Thomas, Laimbeer, Dumars, Salley, Johnson, Mahorn, and Rodman.

    (If you were not, perhaps it is your basketball knowledge that should be in question. Just kidding, I know you’re a smart guy who knows better. BTW, check out

    However, if your underlying point is to highlight the improved play in 1989 by certain members of the 1987 team (such as Dumars and Rodman) there is no dispute. In fact, the same type of argument was used in the above article when it was suggested the many on the Lakers squad (Kareem is the exception) improved from 1985 to 1987.

    (5) Nobody suggested the 1987 Lakers often took the night off in the regular season. The only reference was to the final two games of the regular season when the Lakers literally rested for the playoffs.

    (6) You cite the “smaller” win streaks of 11 and 10 games of the 1987 Lakers without context.

    (a) Both of those win streaks took place in the second half of the season – after the very important trade for Mychal Thompson which made them better than the 1986 Celtics had ever been;

    (b) Those win streaks took place back to back – meaning they won 21 out of 22 games;

    (c) The loss in between those 22 games was a game which MVP Magic Johnson played only 4 minutes.

    (7), (8), and (9) None of these are all that relevant. Single games don’t tell much of a story and it is already understood that both the 1986 Celtics and the 1987 Lakers led the NBA in point differential during their respective seasons and this fairly takes into account margins of victory and defeat.

    (Although just for accuracy purposes the Celtics double-digit loss total in 1986 is 5, not 4. And additionally, of the “whopping” 11 times the Lakers lost by double digits, only four of them were when Mychal Thompson was on the team. Of that four, one took place in a game Magic Johnson played four minutes of, another took place at the end of the season when starters rested in the 4th quarter of a meaningless game.)

    (10) Sorry, but 40-1 at home is still an incredibly overrated fact. It just is. Home wins and losses are not more valuable or detrimental than road wins or losses. A win is a win and a loss is a loss, regardless of where it takes place. A hypothetical “all-time tournament” would not take place exclusively in Boston. The 1987 Celtics 39-2 home record (and the 2009 Cleveland Cavaliers 39-2 home Record) are both revealing of how dubious it is to rely on such stats.

    Nice try though.

    1. Sorry but if 67-15 is still greater than 65-17, then where does Game 7 get played?

      Right. At the home of the team with the 67-15 record.

      So 40-1 at home is very relevant at that point. BTW, it's actually 50-1 including the playoffs.

      BTW, 1996 Bulls and 1997 Bulls, both champions, went 39-2 at home each season, not nearly as insignificant or overrated a fact as you claim.

    2. Okay you convinced me, the 1985-86 Boston Celtics is the best single season team ever.

  8. "The difference then is hardly comparable to the massive gulf between the superior Western Conference and inferior Eastern Conferences over the past decade."

    In other words, you don't want to answer: " The '87 Lakers went through who exactly before the Finals? " because it would hurt your shaky case. Because those teams were terrible because all the teams in the Western Conference not named the Lakers were TERRIBLE.

    And this explains why your claim that "Thankfully the 1985 Lakers didn’t need that excuse when they beat the Celtics after playing in their 4th straight NBA Finals. (’82, ’83, ’84, ’85)" is also an idiotic statement. The 1980s Western Conference was so terrible that it would've been a bigger deal if the Lakers didn't make it. If the Lakers played in the Eastern Conference, they wouldn't do nearly as well and would've succumbed to injury a lot more.

    1. Anonymous,

      You are the typical myopic Boston fan. The 80's East was better, but the West was not nearly as bad as you make it out to be. In the early 80's, there were two elite East teams, the Sixers and Celtics. The Nelly Bucks don't deserve the same status, they were very good, and compare to some of the West teams like the Spurs or Nuggets. In 86, Philly was weak, Detroit still wasn't Detroit of the Bad Boys caliber since they were still developing, so actually their road to the Finals was not so difficult that year. From 87 on Detroit improved, but again we are only talking about one elite opponent.

      As for the West, there were a series of very good 50 win teams, the Spurs and Nuggets early in the decade, the Jazz , Sonics, and Mavericks later. It is nothing like today's East , which is pure mediocrity. All those West teams might not have been the Sixers, but they were on a par with the Bucks, who gave the Celtics trouble.

      Most important of all, forget the numbers. Look at the matchups. The 87 Thompson trade changes everything. No one , not even Mahorn, defended McHale better than him. Kareem gets the edge over Parish. Scott had developed into a consistent scorer and gets the edge over Ainge. Magic upped his game and gets a huge edge over DJ. Cooper and Worthy both defended Bird as well as anyone.

      Stop reading your Bob Ryan propaganda and join the real world like the rest of us.

    2. It's you Jackie42 that is reading propaganda. The Thompson trade is completely overrated in this piece. The 1986 Celtics went through much tougher competition than the 1987 Lakers. That's a FACT.

      BTW, you are saying that Thompson guarded an INJURED McHale better than anyone. 1985-86 McHale was full strength. So your argument should be thrown out.

      And let's look at the matchups:

      Ainge = Scott
      Magic > DJ (although DJ guarded Magic better than anyone)
      Bird > Worthy
      Healthy McHale > Rambis + replacements
      Parish + healthy Walton > Kareem

      That's 3 of 5 in the Celtics favor, not to mention that the Celtics would have the better record and play Game 7 at home with a 50-1 home record to back that up.

      Conclusion: 1986 Celtics > 1987 Lakers

    3. Anonymous,

      You are blind as hell and your "matchups" are a complete joke.

      First, Magic Johnson in 1987 would be the best player on the floor. Period. Better than Larry Legend, and Bird even conceded that in his post game interview after Magic hit the baby sky hook in Game 4. Look it up. Riley finally gave Magic the green light that year and he was the league's MVP. That is a huge advantage that cannot be overstated enough.

      The DJ defense is overrated. He competed hard against Magic, gave a ton of effort, but never really slowed him in any of those series. He was too short to affect Magic's post game, and his backup, the midget Sichsting, had no shot whatsoever.

      Ainge-Scott is close, very close, but I give Scott the edge. Ainge is the much better ball handler, both are knockdown shooters, but Scott's D and ability to fill the lane on the break give him the edge. A slight one.

      Bird-Worthy is also close. Bird gets the edge. He is Bird. Great shooter, passer, post player, dribbler, intangibles, etc. But Worthy is a HOF player too. The third best player on the floor who had intangibles, tremendous post moves that commanded double teams, thunderous finishes, and defended Bird well (Better in fact than DJ did on Magic). In that 87 series, Riley used Cooper a lot less on Bird because Worthy did such a good job. This is close, and Worthy is more than productive.

      McHale gets the edge at the 4, no question. But Thompson was damn good, and no less than Larry himself, again, made comments to the press just how devastating that trade was. Thompson was McHale's teammate in college, practiced against him, knew his game, and played him well , regardless of his foot or not. Plus , his impact was transformative. He was another guy who could run and fill the lane on the break, gave Kareem much needed rest, and was a double digit scorer all his career who could post up and hit mid range jumpers. What you forget is that Rambis wasn't even the starter. It was a younger , more active and athletic AC Green, who was an upgrade. McHale wins that matchup , but AC makes his ass tired as hell trying to chase him in transition.

      Your center argument is simply laughable. If they went twin towers, the Lakers would simply go big too with Kareem and thompson at the same time. In 85 Kareem was the Finals MVP lighting up Parish, who could never stop him. In 86 he averaged 20 a game. In 87 , he dropped to 17, but only because Magic got more shots. His hook was still unstoppable, and Parish and his bum ankle was always giving out. Kareem and Thompson get the edge.

      What you totally neglect is the bench. Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper would be the best defender on the floor and a deadly three point shooter. Rambis would be a reserve. Thompson's contributions are noted above. The Celtics? Walton was good in 86 , Sichsting was decent but overrated. Wedman , Kite, and the rest of those jokers? Not as good as the rest of the Lakers bench.

      One final point. The Celtics in 86 and Lakers in 87 were not challenged by the West or the East those years. In 86 , the Celtics went thru the Bulls, Hawks , and Bucks. The Bulls had a young Jordan and nobody else. Mediocre. The Hawks were not the same Hawks as in 87. They were still coming up. And the Bucks were fading from earlier in the decade. Not as good. That year the C's had an easy road. It was not the early 80s when Dr J was around. And it was not 87 when the Bad Boys came up. Check your facts homey.

      This series does not even go 7 games. Lakers take it in 6.

    4. NYT: When the Celtics retired Johnson’s No. 3 in a Boston Garden ceremony in December 1991, Magic Johnson, the retired Los Angeles Lakers star, sent a telegram calling him “the best backcourt defender of all time.”

      Now he's not of course, but Magic isn't throwing around praise like that if DJ wasn't in the discussion. Bird called him the greatest teammate he ever had and he played with Parish, Walton, McHale and Tiny Archibald.

      BTW, saying Bird and Worthy are close because both are HOFers is the laughable part. Dennis Johnson is also a HOFer and so must be close to Magic right.?

      For the record, the 1986 Celtics could've put FIVE HOFers on the court at the same time with Bird playing the 2. The Lakers, only 3.

      Kareem was an OLD player who had his skyhook BLOCKED by Walton. So no it's not laughable that two HOFers when healthy could take on Kareem. I mean even Greg Kite punked Kareem. As for Thompson (who didn't start), the Celtics had plenty of big guys to throw on him.

      And, um, no the East was not weak as you claim. The Bucks won five less games than the 1986 Lakers who had a much easier conference. The Hawks beat the Pistons to advance. Chicago had Michael Jordan, Oakley Paxson and a bunch of scrubs. Even with MJ injured, they played the Lakers tough.

      You also disregard the regular season battles (because they actually had to care somewhat about those games) with Philly (which still had Dr J) and Detroit and went 67-15.

      More evidence, FiveThirtyEight used an ELO metric and determined the 1985-86 Celtics to be the 3rd best team behind the 96 Bulls and the 97 Bulls which are in the discussion of greatest teams. The 1987 Lakers aren't even the best Lakers team on the list.

      So a team that went 50-1 at home is going to lose a home game to the Lakers? Not likely. The Celtics would have homecourt. So no, it's more likely Celtics in 6 in a 2-3-2 and Celtics in 5 in 2-2-1-1-1.

      People who are not Lakers fanboys can see who is blind.

    5. Anonymous,

      I came a bit late to this debate, but it's obvious you don't have any clue what you are talking about.

      First, let me say that the 83 Sixers beat all these teams. They slice up the C's no prob in 6. And in 7 games they beat LA. That series is much closer than in 83 against LA because Worthy is healthy, Magic is an improved MVP level player, and Thompson helps Kareem battle Moses. But if we are limiting talks to 86 C's v 87 Lakers, Lakers beat them, hands down. They beat them 85, really should have beat them in 84, and 87 was better than any of those teams.

      Second, citing to regular season numbers as to the Bulls is a joke. Anyone who grew up in that era knows the 86 Bulls were not title contenders. They were not even on par with the West teams you rip on. Not as good as the Mavs or Spurs. It's flat out silly. They had Jordan and nobody. Woolridge, Oakley (still developing) and Corzine and Paxson? Lol fool. They didn't even become title contenders with Pippen at first. It took years. '91 to be precise. Then your mention of the idiotic metric shows how weak your argument is because it lists those Rodman-Jordan Bulls teams at the top. The league was weaker at the time and their win totals were inflated. I would argue that the 83 Sixers, 86 C's, 87 Lakers, 85 Lakers all beat the Jordan teams. Even the Drexler-Akeem Rockets, and Shaq-Kobe teams would give them problem with their weak centers.

      At a certain point you just get brain dead. Greg Kite punk Kareem??? Haha. Greg Kite didn't punk anyone in his life. Not even backup centers. Did he punk him in 85 too when Kareem won Finals MVP? Absolutely ludicrous claim.

      That is almost as dumb as saying DJ-Magic is on a par with Bird-Worthy. Bird v Worthy is clearly more even. DJ is not a top ten point guard or 2 guard on anyone intelligent person's list in this universe. Not in the top ten at any position he played. Worthy clearly is. I would say that when it comes to 3's Bird, LeBron, Elgin Baylor , and Dr. J are in a class of their own. Behind them , still in the top 10 are Worthy, 'Nique, and Pippen, Havlicek and Barry right there with them.

      And sure Kareem occasionally had his skyhook blocked a couple times IN A SEASON, many times on uncalled goaltending plays, but let's not act like Walton did that very often. It was extremely rare Kareem owned him and Parish. Moses gave him a lot more trouble then either of them.

      Like all Boston dirtbags you have no clue, and your cheating Pats will never get 6 rings .

    6. "Like all Boston dirtbags you have no clue, and your cheating Pats will never get 6 rings ."

      I read this first so I can now disregard your utterly ridiculous argument. Thank you for not trying Steroids, I mean Steelers fan!

      Yes you did come into the debate late, and also unprepared.

    7. The Eastern Conference in 1985 and 1986 was very weak. The 76ers had declined considerably and the Pistons were not there, yet. Those years it was the Boston Celtics vs the CBA. Those two years the conference was a joke. The 1987 Los Angeles Lakers were the greatest team in NBA history. Next, either the Philadelphia 76ers of 1982-83 or 1966-67 would have given the Lakers their toughest battle. The Lakers of 2000-01 were better than the 1986 Celtics. The rest is just pure East Coast propaganda.

    8. Unknown,

      I see you replied at quite a few places in these comments. I agree with you and the author that the 87 Lakers are the best team of all time. You are also accurate about those 2 76er teams. But the 86 Celtics do beat the 2000-2001 Lakers. On that point I disagree with u.

      The 2000 Laker team was better than 2001 because they had Glen Rice. Everyone thinks 2001 was the best because of their better playoff record, but they played much weaker teams than in 2000 with that loaded Blazers squad. But in any event, those Shaq-Kobe teams lose to the 86 Celtics (They would get crushed by the 87 Lakers too).

      Shaq and Bird would be the 2 best players on the floor, but the C's could put 3 excellent defensive bigs on Shaq in Walton, Parish, and McHale. I know the Sixers tried Mutombo on him and failed, but they used single coverage. KC Jones would double him with 2 quality bigs at all times.

      Bird kills Rick Fox. Kobe has big edge over Ainge and DJ. But they get the edge over Fisher big time.

      The biggest edge at any position will be at the 4 where the Shaq-Kobe teams always got torched by Webber, Wallace, and other top power forwards. McHale would absolutely slaughter Horry. 86 Celtics beat them in 6 or 7. The 87 Lakers beat the 2001 Lakers in 4 or 5 max.

  9. BTW, 83 Sixers do not beat either the 87 Lakers or the 86 Celtics. I can agree with the Lakers fans on that one. While Moses was a force, both of these teams could've handled the Sixers.

    Pretty much the same team lost in the first round the next year to the Nets (w/o HC) and the 1985 Sixers with Barkley lost to the 85 Celtics and the 86 Celtics team was much better.

  10. Sometimes its best to hear from the players themselves. A lot of false arguments about the Celtics are found in these comments, and it appears Run TMC is right when he said Bird admits Magic is superior. I'm not saying the 86 Celtics are crap, they were awesome that year, better than any of the Jordan teams, better than the 33 game win streak Jerry West Lakers, but the 87 Lakers were awesome. They had all the elements come together at the right time. Below are Celtic quotes (confessions) rebutting the Beantown whining in these comments:

    1. A shocked Larry Bird, realizing the huge upgrade the Mychal Thompson trade would give the Lakers frontline: “If San Antonio needed money, we would’ve sent them money. But to go and help the Lakers like that is just terrible.”

    2. Larry Bird on MVP Magic Johnson during the 1987 Finals: "Magic is a great, great basketball player," Bird stated flatly, settling the issue for the moment. "The best I've ever seen."

    3. Bill Russell believed his 60's C's were the greatest squad of all-time, but the only team he thought might give them difficulty were the Showtime Lakers. No mention of Jordan Bulls, Bad Boys, or Bird 86 Celtics.

    "He praised Magic Johnson and said that Magic's Showtime Lakers were the only non-Celtic teams he had watched closely over the years with some trepidation.

    "'But we'd still have beaten you,'" he said, the famous Russell cackle echoing through the room.

    4. Bill Walton on Kareem: "Without question, no hesitation, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the best player I ever played against. Not just the best center, he was the best player, period. He was better than Magic (Johnson), better than Larry, better than Michael (Jordan). He was my source of motivation. Everything I did was to try to beat this guy. I lived to play against him, and I played my best ball against him. No matter what I threw at him, though, it seemed like he'd score 50 against me. His left leg belongs in the Smithsonian. And it wasn't just offense. He was a great defender and rebounder, a great passer, a wonderful leader. He was phenomenal."

    1. Boston whining? Wow Jerry 78?

      Here's what Bird said about the 1986 Celtics vs the 1987 Lakers (warning it has a lot of "Boston whining"):

      Magic on Larry: "When I played, Larry Bird WAS THE ONLY ONE I FEARED. A lot of black guys always ask me, 'Did Larry Bird really play that good?' I said Larry Bird is so good it's frightening."

      I'd be willing to admit that both are members of the Mutual Admiration Society.

      Kareem in the 1970s was definitely the best. In the late 80s and at 37 years old, he was getting beat by other centers and a healthy Parish + Walton combo can do just that.

      As for Mychal Thompson, he was on the 1988 Lakers too and they weren't world beaters. If not for the refs they probably lose the '88 Finals to the Pistons.

      Read quote #3 again. It doesn't say that Russell didn't fear any of the Celtics teams, it just says of the non-Celtics teams he watched, the Showtime Lakers gave him some trepidation. So Russell could've also implied by the quote you chose that he could've feared the 1986 Celtics or even the 2008 Celtics.

      Again, if the 1987 Lakers were that great, they would've won the 87 Finals in less than 6 games against a Celtics team that was clearly injured and tired from playing two consecutive seven game series.

      Once again, the Lakers fanboys have proven nothing.

    2. I do not understand your logic, 6 games, the Celtics still lost. The 1985 or 1987 Lakers would have beat the 1986 Celtics. They proved it on the basketball court, not in our minds.

  11. I am not a LA fanboy, but a long time Alcindor-Oscar & Pressey-Moncrief- Cummings Bucks fan. I think some of your points are reasonable, but some are off. Maybe a non-Lakers/non-Celtics fan can offer a neutral view here.

    First, I agree Magic and Larry had a mutual admiration society. By 87 they had filmed the famous Converse commercial, became friends, and had tremendous mutual respect. So Jerry78's quotes from Larry don't convince me. But I do think its clear Magic was the best in the NBA in 87, and he was better in 87 than in all prior years. No Norm Nixon to take away his touches and Riley had made him the the first option. So if 87 LA played 86 Boston, it would be this superior version of Magic they faced. And I do believe this 87 version of Magic is the best player on the floor. Better than a healthy 86 McHale , better than 86 Bird too.

    Second, the video in your like sounds like pathetic excuse whining, I'm sorry man. I expect it from a fanboy like Simmons, but I was really surprised by a stand up legend like Larry saying that stuff. Its ironic because Bird was the one badass guy who played hurt himself and never ever made excuses. It sounded like when boxer David Haye pulled off his shoe in the ring for the cameras and claimed his toe broke. Or when Pacquiao said he hurt his shoulder. If you play, no excuses. What is your opponent supposed to do, give less effort to make things even?

    Injuries are part of the game. There is no way after playing 82 games and several playoff series the Lakers also did not have their own share of nagging injuries too. Granted McHale's was the most severe, but this also shows the greatness of that 87 LA roster because it had quality depth , 8-9 deep, and thus, could avoid injury in the first place. Bench strength is a factor.

    LA fans could play that same game too if they wanted by saying Worthy's broken leg in 83 cost them a title , or by claiming the loss of their entire starting backcourt of Magic and Byron Scott in 89, after steamrolling and having only 1 loss in the 1st 3 rounds, cost them that year too. Or Magic's HIV and early career end in 92 cost them another ring. Technically, those health issues were even worse because their players could not suit up, unlike the Celtics in 87. The whole "shoulda" argument would add 3 more titles and give Magic 8, if they go that weak argument route. But they can't, and nor can the Celtics, whose players actually suited up.

    Third, Kareem (I still can't believe the Bucks traded him, It's like Babe Ruth), I agree, best player in the 70's. But I followed his career closely, and he was never really weak until 89. In 85 he won Finals MVP, in 86 he dropped 40+ twice on twin towers Sampson and Olajuwon and averaged 23 (26 in playoffs), and in 87 he still averaged 17 (20 in playoffs). That year, even though they gave Magic more touches, he was still LA's first option in crunch time, in the last 5 minutes. So the 6 point scoring drop (23 pts to 17 pts) was partly a physical decline , but more so a restructuring of the team's shot distribution to Magic , Worthy , and Scott, similar , but not quite as much, to how the Spurs have done with Duncan. The physical ability with Kareem really dropped in 88 and drastically in 89, but not 87.

    In 87, game 6, against McHale and Parish, he had 32 points and 4 blocks. In Game 2, had 23, in Game 3, he had 27. In the 87 regular season, against Houston, Boston, New York, all teams with all Star Centers, he had games of 27, 20, 26, 19, to name a few. So I don't see a healthy Parish and Walton dominating him at all. Sampson and Olajuwon could not.

    Btw he was 38 in 85, 39 in 86, and 40 in 87. Incredible to put up such numbers at that age.

    1. 4th, it is a bit hypocritical to critique Thompson and not use the same standard on Walton. You can't say Mychal Thompson was weak based on his work the following year after 87, otherwise Laker fans can say the same thing with Walton (he was good in 86, but a non factor/injured in 87). The truth is both players had aged , and yes one year can make a difference.

      Part of the problem is that both teams caught lightning in a bottle in 86 and in 87. So you can't look at other years to bolster your points. It must be tunnel vision. The Only question is how 86 C's would be versus 87 LA. Nothing else matters. 86 was unique for Boston because Walton actually was healthy and everything came together right. Same for 87 LA , Thompson was still formidable, Magic finally got the green light, AC green had improved, Kareem was still capable , Worthy and Scott had improved. Cooper was defensive player of the year. Everyone was upgraded except Kareem. So take those 2 teams, those 2 years only.

      Looking at other years is a copout. Otherwise LA fans could do that all day. They could say they met boston 3 times in the 80s, won twice, and in the third, in 84, they still looked like the better team but choked it away. So in all the years they played, they could claim they were better overall if they used that logic. They could say 86 was an aberration because Maurice Lucas caused LA chemistry problems, and that Magic did not have control of the offense. Therefore, to simplify things, cut the irrelevant other years and focus only on the two best teams for each franchise, 86 v 87. Otherwise if we look at overall body of work, its not close, 5 titles to 3, LA wins. The article is on the best individual team only.

      5th, I disagree with 6 games argument. In 86, Boston needed 6 to beat Houston, so if that is too high a number of games, it undermines the greatness of your 86 team too. Also, if the 87 Celtics were so injured and weak, as you seem to claim, then their playoff road must have been filled with extremely weak Eastern Conference teams in order to advance to the Finals. How else could such a weak injured squad make it through? LA fans could use that same argument to claim their 88 team was better than it really was. After all, that team had 3 7 game series and repeated. I don't agree with that reasoning.

      I can't accept that the 87 C's were weak because I know Philly, Detroit and Milwaukee were quality squads throughout the 80s. So in 87 the Celtics were not weak. Everyone played in 87 except for Walton. McHale averaged 21 in the 87 postseason, he was not helpless. Parish and Bird's 87 playoff numbers actually improved from 86. None were helpless, so its unfair to diminish the LA title based on beating a "weak" Boston team . IN 87, it was less about Boston's "weakness" and much more about LA's superiority and having everything come together that year.

      6th, the 88 Pistons comment I again see as irrelevant to the 86 v 87 debate. It's a different year, the LA team is different, older, etc. As for the ref comment, even though it is not relevant, I still disagree. Detroit choked a three point lead with one minute left in game 6 and had the ball after the Kareem free throws with 13 seconds left . They blew it that game and then lost again in game 7. It was 1-1 with 3 games going back to Detroit, and LA took back the home court in Game 3 after Detroit blew their advantage. If we play this "coulda" game, LA can claim they beat Detroit in 89 if it weren't for the hamstring injuries. No excuses.

    2. 7th I agree with you on the Russell quote. Jerry 78, only proved that Russell was wary of Showtime, but did not show anything about 86 Boston. All I know is Russell never publicly said 86 could beat his 60s Celtics, and he never made much effort to praise them or other Celtics teams to much of an extent. I think he views both 86 and 87 teams beneath the 60s C's, and doesn't care if one is better than the other.

      I think these are the 2 best teams of the 80s (with 83 Fo Fo Fo Sixers right there too). Better than Bad Boys and Jordan Bulls. Better than Shaq-Kobe and Duncan Spurs. I think Russell's team could uptempo with the 87 Lakers, but would lose in the half court in the end in 6. I think the 86 Celtics lose to the Alcindor-Oscar Bucks in 7. Young Kareem and Oscar would be difficult. I think the Willis Reed Knicks had enough depth to give both teams problems, extending each to 7 games.

      As for 86 v 87 , LA wins, even with Walton. Walton played 19 minutes a game and averaged only 7 points, although he had a tremendous presence in other areas. But that is not enough. 87 LA had everything, better depth, everyone peaking except Kareem, 4 players who could command double teams in the post when things slowed down, defense, rebounding, and lots of guys who could run and get easy buckets on fast breaks. The 86 Boston team was pretty much all half court, and against someone who is your equal, those lack of easy buckets add up and make things much more difficult. That 87 team would win on the road too in Boston. LA wins in 6.

  12. Yet another Celtic quote, on the subject of playing with injuries. This quote is from McHale himself, the one Simmons likes to cry over and claim how the poor Celtics were practically invalids in 87. He was banged up, but still very effective and played near to his regular production level. The quote is from a recent article on LeBron, and McHale dismisses any notion about feeling sorry for players because they have played in multiple consecutive Finals and have a few nagging injuries.

    Link to article:

    McHale quote: "No, you're playing basketball," said Houston Coach Kevin McHale, who played in four consecutive Finals with Boston in the 1980s. "The physical toll was when you saw your pops come home from working in the mines every single day. Believe me, every single day I played basketball was a blessing, and they paid you for it."

  13. The 1987 Los Angeles Lakers are the greatest team in NBA history. They were an above average defensive team, as many of their fast breaks, began because of good defense. They were just as proficient in the half court game, as in the full court one. They had great post players in Jabbar, Worthy and Johnson. After 30 years, Mr. Simmons is still trying to figure out why the Boston Celtics lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

  14. The 86 Celtics would have won. I'll give the Lakers the edge as the best team of the 80s for beating the Celtics twice, and winning 5 titles, BUUUTTTTT. the 86 Celtics were better than the 87 Lakers. Why? Bill Walton(and a better record).

    Now I know Walton's sixth man stats weren't awe inspiring, and the 87 Lakers were a great team, Although they won two less games. than the 86 Celtics, but what I see as the issue is Kareem.

    Now I have re watched the a lot of Classic Celtics Lakers games including much of 84, 85, titles. the two regular season meetups in 86 and the 87 titles. What I see, is that as great as the Celtics front court was, they couldn't stop Kareem. He killed them. Over and over. he did it in 84 but magic forgot to keep feeding the big fella for some reason and the Celtics won. He did it in 85. He did it in 87. But 86, look at the regular season meetups. The combination of having to Guard, Parrish and Walton and being guarded by Parrish and Walton was huge. Just a tad better than the Parrish/Greg Kite combo that took the Lakers to 6 games with Parrish playing on a sprained Ankle and McHale on a broken foot. During those 86 matchups, Kareem, couldn't rest on defense like he could when say Greg Kite was in. It took a lot out of him.

    The Celtics of 86 would have beaten the 87 Lakers. It would have been fierce, but to me the outcome is not in question.

    And the Bulls of the 90s would have beaten them both.

    1. Itsafreakingame,

      Nice try, but 2 problems with your argument.

      You lost all credibility with the ridiculous claim that the Bulls of the 90s beat both teams. The 76ers, Celtics, and Lakers of the 80s whip the Bulls in 6 games max, most likely 5.

      Also the Parish/Walton combo I agree is better than Parish/Kite, a lot better. But if they played the 87 Lakers, then its Parish/Walton versus Kareem/Mychal Thompson. Thats advantage Lakers, or at worse, an even matchup.

  15. One minor correction. The 49 and 63, respectively, that MJ scored v Boston in the 1986 Rd. 1 series was in his second playoff series, not his playoff debut. His Bulls lost to Milwaukee 3 games to 1 in the first round in 1985.

  16. People are also forgetting the 1983 Sixers in this debate, but you could make a case for the 87 Lakers as the best ever. I would take them, the 86 Celtics, and the Sixers over MJ and the 96 Fools any day of the week.

    Also, there are probably some who think that the 01 Lakers would beat those teams. No, way. From what I have seen online (from different message boards), the 2001 Lakers are the most overrated team of all time.

  17. I really don't think this argument is as complicated as it seems. The 1986 Celtics were the better team, and I'm a Pistons fan and hate both teams FYI.

    I remember the 1987 ECF clearly. Boston was banged up...and as a Pistons fan, I thought we had them. Walton was a non factor, McHale's foot was broken...but they took us in 7 (barely). Bird was on another level in games 5,6,7...he carried that team those final 3 games.

    The biggest difference between the 86 Celtics and 87 Lakers was depth. In 87, the Celtics bench was decimated. No Walton (HOF), no Wedman (former multiple All-Star). Although Bird was healthy, the Celtics starters had to play way too many minutes. That's how we almost bounced them in the Conference Finals.

    One stat I read about the 86 Celtics and their depth is the following: Kevin McHale missed an 18 game stretch during 1986. 18 games! And what did the Celtics do without him? They went 15-3 including a victory in the Forum against the Lakers, McHale.

    If the 1987 Lakers lost Worthy (comparable offensive output to 86 McHale), there is no way they would have had a stretch like that. Not possible.

    Thankfully by 1988 the Celtics bench was long depleted, and my Bad Boys bounced the Bird-era Celtics from the ECF. We also should have won the Finals that year.

    The 87 Eastern Conference was superior...much more so than the West. The Pistons were on the cusp of being a great team. Nique was at his peak...and Jordan averaged 37 a game for that season. The hobbled Celtics had to go through all of this, and still won 2 games (almost 3) against the Lakers.

    I just can't see that a healthy McHale, a healthy Walton, and Wedman joining the Celtics wouldn't have given them the edge over the Lakers. At worst, the 86 Celtics take it in 7...most likely 6.

  18. The Final Word from former Celtic Cornbread Maxwell admitting the Lakers 87 team was better than the Celtics 86 team, and that the Lakers 87 team was the best of all time (he does get confused about McAdoo, who was on the 85 team, not the 87 team).:

    1. Irrelevant. Max has always had an axe to grind with the Celtics since they shipped him off the 85 team, after he dragged out his knee injury. Proof of this is his statement a few years ago that Dirk Nowitzki was a better all around player than Larry Bird.

  19. Given all of the injuries that Boston faced in 87, and the fact that they had no bench, coupled with the fact that they pushed this "mighty" 87 Lakers team to six games (almost 7)'d have to be delusional to think the 86 Celtics weren't better.

    1. Anonymous,

      I'm gonna to use your own ridiculous logic against you. If the 86 Celtics were so "mighty" , then why were THEY pushed to 6 by the Rockets the year before? Either being pushed to 6 games is a sign of weakness, or it isn't. You can't selectively pick and choose when you get to use it.

      In 87 , the C's starters all played . End of story. Walton was the main guy who didn't get minutes. The only one.

  20. This article is foolish. No Walton, McHale's broken foot, Parish's sprained ankle... you fix those things, and the Celtics take out 87's Showtime in 6 games, max.

    1. What Beantown BS. The Celtics and Lakers met 3 times in the 80s. Lakers won 2 out of 3. The first, '84, Lakers looked like the better team, but gave away Game 2 when Worthy made a poor pass. Celtics were more clutch that year and deserved it. '85, the Lakers beat them on their own parquet, with 38 year old Kareem owning Parish and McHale, getting MVP, and going for 25 a game. In 87, a better Lakers team (Magic/Worthy/Scott/AC Green improving & Kareem still scoring 17 a game) with a better bench (Mychal Thompson and defensive player of the year Cooper) beats Boston in 6 again.

      The 87 Celtic injuries were always exaggerated. Parish's sprain was not severe, he was able to run up and down in that series. McHale did not exactly have a Lisfranc injury. Here are some real injuries that actually kept players out of games: Worthy broken leg in 83, Magic/Scott torn hamstrings in 89. There is a difference between being hurt and being injured

  21. Besides, the Lakers are the Celtic's bitch in the Finals anyway. Every Laker super star that has faced the Celtics in the Finals in their career has lost to the Celtics at some point. West, Wilt, Elgin Baylor, Magic, Kareem & Kobe. The Celtics have the Lakers by the balls in all-time NBA Finals matchups, 9-3.

    1. More BS. One era has little relevance to the other.
      60s- no question, Celtics own Lakers. They had by far the deeper and more talented roster. To do less would have been an epic choke on their part.
      80s- Lakers win 2 out of 3, and are a far superior team. Went to more Finals in the decade and won more titles. Would have beaten the C's more, but Boston failed to make it to the Finals as many times as LA
      2000s - Even split. C's beat Kobe the first time, and they should have. Big 3 had a much better roster than just Kobe and Pau, and no Bynum. In second meeting, a hobbling Bynum evened things up and took em in 7.

      The 9-3 disparity really comes just from the 60s edge only. After that it's either been even, or flat out Laker superiority

    2. cant selectively eliminate certain eras. Plus in 68 and in 69 the Lakers were favored. Especially in 69. They had West, Baylor and Wilt. The Celtics were old, Russell was player/coach. The Celtics finished 4th that year with no one expecting them to advance past round 1. So what happened? The Lakers choked away the series, including blowing game 7 at home. The Celtics Lakers rivalry is one of the most lopsided...much like Yankees Red Sox

    3. You are delusional, avoiding all facts. Let's try this again:
      60s- C's dominate hands down. They won every series, including 69 when the Lakers were favored (blame van brenda koff heavily for that loss for letting his ego get in the way of putting Wilt back on the floor).
      80s- Lakers not only beat the Celtics 2 out of 3 (should have been 3 but for giving it away), but were the TEAM OF THE DECADE, hands down. 9 finals appearances overall, 5 rings. Could have made more finals if Magic didn't get sick.
      2000s- Lakers WON 5 RINGS, C's 1. It's not even close. Head to head, they split. Would be nice to have seen more matchups, but unfortunately Boston couldn't get to the Finals that often.
      And don't get me started on the Mikan era ...

  22. Ha...whatever helps you sleep at night my friend. Facts are facts, they've met 12 times, and the Celtics defeated the Lakers in 9 of them. Actually, the Lakers have supported the raising of Celtics banners more than any other franchise.

    1. Here's some simple math that even a Celtic fan can comprehend. Let's just count dynasties.

      Lakers 2, Celtics 1. C's have the 60's. Lakers have the 80's and 2000's. And if we count Mikan days, it's a 3-1 edge.

  23. Well this got way off topic in the comments section, but as a neutral party I thought I'd share my two cents.

    87 Lakers vs. 86 Celtics is a tough one. You can go either way.

    As far as the Lakers Celtics rivalry, that is also a tough one. On one hand, the Lakers over the last 20-30 years have been a much more successful franchise. There is no debating that. After the end of the Big Three, the Len Bias death, and then Reggie Lewis...the Celtics were horrendous for 15 years. Meanwhile the Shaq/Kobe Lakers dominated the league, winning multiple titles. The Lakers have never really had a decade where they have been bad.

    In head to head competition the Celtics have dominated the Lakers overall. Also, the 1960s is one of the best examples in all of sports when one franchise has mopped the floor with another, repeatedly over an extended period.

    So again, it's really hard to say who has the edge.

    I do think that the all time Lakers team defeats the all time Celtics. Having a starting five that includes at least Kobe, Magic, Kareem, Baylor and West would defeat any starting 5 of the Celtics.


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