1984 NBA Finals: It Doesn't Get Any Better

1984 NBA Finals

Larry v. Magic: Game 8

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary
Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Media Coverage

They are two old and proud warriors, weary of waiting out a truce that neither franchise sought.

For 15 years, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics - opponents six times in the National Basketball Association's finals between 1962 and 1969 - have waited for the championship series rematch that never came.

But for the Lakers, who won titles in 1980 and 1982 but fell to Philadelphia in four straight in last season's finals, and the Celtics, whose last championship was in 1981, the wait is over.

It ends today at 1 p.m. (TV-Channel 10) when, in front of a Boston Garden capacity crowd of 14,890 Celtics zealots and beneath all of those NBA title banners, one of sports' most volatile wars of the '60s moves into the '80s in a best-of-seven series for the league championship.

"No question about it," said Boston's Cedric Maxwell. "This is going to be the Civil War series. Divide the country in half."

"Shoot, this is it," said Los Angeles' Magic Johnson. "We are waiting for our apple pie, this is the dessert. We didn't wait 8 1/2 months to get none."

The Celtics, 14-time champions who put together the league's best regular season record and thus hold the home-court advantage, will face a Lakers team that has won the title seven times - second best in the NBA - but which has never beaten Boston in a championship series.

Los Angeles is a team that had the best regular-season record in the Western Conference and that also breezed through the playoffs until it ran into Phoenix in the conference finals. The Lakers eliminated the Suns Friday night with a dramatic 99-97 victory in Game 6.

"I don't care if we'd have had to go through Timbuktu," said Lakers coach Pat Riley after that game. "All we wanted was a chance to play for the brass."

Now they have it, and a better matchup would be hard to fathom.

Both sides hold a load of talent rivaling their rich juggernauts of the '60s.

Larry Joe Bird, the Celtics' All-Star forward who has averaged 27.9 points and nine rebounds a game in the playoffs, was only a 12-year old boy in French Lick, Ind., when player-coach Bill Russell led the 1969 Celtics to the NBA's last repeat title in the seventh game. Jack Kent Cooke, then the Lakers owner, was so confident of victory in that Game 7 that he ordered thousands of balloons suspended over the Forum's floor in anticipation of glory that never came.

The Lakers' Johnson, who alone can rival Bird as the league's most complete player, was only 9 years old that year, and was just barely on this earth when guys like Bob Cousy of Boston and Elgin Baylor of L.A. squared off.

But what gives this already attractive confrontation a little added glamour is the fact that Bird and Johnson have not faced each other in a championship situation since Bird's Indiana State team lost in the 1979 NCAA final to Johnson's Michigan State.

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