Laker coach Pat Riley had often dismissed regular-season games as "meaningless" because their outcomes so often turned on the vagaries of schedule, travel and injuries. True enough, but Celtic and Laker players and coaches acknowledged that each working day they checked out how the rival on the other coast had done the night before. "I only meant that nothing happening between us in the regular season affected the playoffs," says Riley. "Believe me, I would grab the paper in the morning and see how they did. I'd say, 'Ah, Indiana got 'em last night.' "
"When the new schedule would come out each year," says Magic, "I'd grab it and circle the Boston games. To me it was The Two and the other 80. During the season I'd check out Larry's line first thing. If he had a triple double, I knew what I'd want that night. But what would get me would be his big ones—say, when he had 20 rebounds. I'd say, 'I'd better get me 20 assists tonight.' " "The first thing I would do every morning during the season," Bird says, "was look at the box scores to see what Magic did. I didn't care about anything else."
When I first started blogging here in October of 2007, a lot of folks couldn't understand why I hated the purple so much. I don't think they were Laker fans per se. Just not Celtics' fans of my vintage. If you weren't old enough to live through the Celtics-Lakers battles of the 1980s, then you really had to work hard to understand the rivalry. And if you don't understand the rivalry? Well, I'll be a snob and say you just aren't Celtics fan. I only say this now because I've taken heat as being a week Celtics' fan myself, after expressing a preference that the Celtics lose during the Eastern Conference playoffs last year, rather than limping into the Finals only to get their arses kicked by the purple. Nothing pains a true Celtics' fan more than that.
Again, in October of 2007, none of this may have made much sense to anyone 25 or younger. The Celtics were one of the best teams in basketball, while some experts picked the Lakers to miss the playoffs. During the 1980s, every Celtics' fan worth their salt did just what Pat Riley and Magic Johnson did back then. They circled dates on the calendar, they picked up the morning newspaper to see how the Lakers did the night before, and, if the purple lost, you'd find that you had a little more pep in your step until the next game came along. Some of us even jumped up in the air and pumped our fists at the box score in the newspaper.
I've been preaching this stuff for most of my life, not just here but out there in the real world. There are two teams in the NBA, and nobody else really matters. Funny thing is, I've come to respect the old-time Lakers, even Byron Scott, who I used to hate more than Red's Army hates Kobe. I don't see me ever developing that kind of appreciation for the Zen Mistress and the rest of the current roster of Fakers.