A few days ago, when the Boston Celtics surprised the basketball world by hiring Butler University head coach Brad Stevens, a lot of people didn’t understand this move. that’s why we he here at Dubsism took a few days to really dig into what happened here so we could explain it to the six non-state hospital inmates who read this blog.
For purposes of full disclosure, I am a life-long Los Angeles Lakers fan, which means I have an eyeball-popping hatred of the Celtics, and of the Celtics of the 1980’s the only one I could conceivably hate more than Danny Ainge is Kevin McHale. But to be fair, as a general manager, Danny Ainge is a guy with los cojoñes grandes. He has absolutely no fear to break conventional wisdom and follow his hunches. That style of decision-making leads to some really funky combinations. He can be both bold and foolish, or he can be indecisive and brilliant.
On the other side, even though my basketball allegiances belong to the Lakers, I am also a transplant to Indiana, having been here through Brad Stevens’ rise from the Horizon League to the NBA. It is that level of unpredictably that you need to keep in mind as we go through why this hire really makes sense for both both the Celtics and Stevens.
There’s really two main reasons why.
1) This move fills a mutual need.
Even before Doc Rivers saddled his horse and rode west, everybody knew the “Big Three” era in Boston was essentially over. Even before Ainge traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, Reggie Evans, and first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018, everybody knew a rebuilding era was coming sooner rather than later in Boston. And even before all of that, the rumors were flying in Boston that the relationship between Rajon Rondo and the Celtics was pretty much over.
That means that when the search for a new coach started for the Celtics, they could forget about any of the high-profile guys out there. Be they Phil Jackson, George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro, or even the ghost of Red Auerbach, Danny Ainge had to know he had about as much chance of getting one of those guys to take on a Celtic rebuilding project as getting Queen Elizabeth II to knock back a bar-rail full of Jello shots and do a pole dance.
That left Ainge two choices. He could either hire an up-and-coming NBA assistant coach, or he could test the college ranks to see if there might be a guy out there looking for a shot at the big leagues. With the assistant, you get a guy with NBA experience, but he is also likely a guy nobody has ever heard of. With the college guy, you get the exact opposite; no experience but a name people recognize. Given the probability that Rajon Rondo has played his last game in Celtic green, Ainge knows he may have a team whose biggest star would arguably be Kris “Don’t call me Mr. Kardashian” Humphries.
Not only does that help explain why he chose the college coach, it also sheds a lot of light on why he offered Brad Stevens a ridiculously large and long deal for an NBA rookie coach. Only the hottest property amongst the available college coaches could demand a 6-year, $22 million deal. Regardless of of his role on the team, Brad Stevens just became the reason Celtics fans will keep coming back during the rebuilding era, and he’s been paid handsomely for it.
2) It won’t matter if Stevens succeeds or fails.
The beauty of this deal is that success will have nothing to do with results, which is precisely why this is a win-win for both Stevens and the Celtics.
For Danny Ainge, his hiring of Stevens puts some star power on the Celtic the side of the floor in a time when the player roster may be sorely lacking it. Looking at what the Celtics’ roster is likely going to be come October, nobody with a realistic eye will look at this team as a winner. So, in the short term, Ainge has made a reason to give a damn about a Celtic team that has every opportunity to be as interesting as watching concrete harden, and done so with a team for whom nobody can possibly have realistic lofty expectations.
For Brad Stevens, this a brilliant career move no matter what happens. In the unlikely event he turns the Celtics into an instant winner, then he is a successful coach on one of the NBA’s flagship franchises. But in the event that he doesn’t see the end of that 6-year deal, he still just made “set for life” money.
But it is that last possibility which is both the most likely and ironically offers the most positive options for Stevens.
I’ve already mentioned the first one. While I don’t know all the details of this contract, I would be willing to bet there is a nice buy-out clause, especially after year three. So win or lose, Brad Stevens isn’t going to be sweating his kids’ college tuition.
He already is gold as far as being a college coach is concerned, and his stock only goes up with NBA experience on his resume. If he ends up going back to the college game, he can tell recruits that he knows first-hand what it takes to play with the big boys. It’s no accident that both Rick Pitino and John Calipari became hausmeisters of the college game after having had stints in the NBA.
It is that experience in the big leagues that allows for the trade-up in jobs as well. Failing in the NBA only led to bigger and better things for many college coaches. John Calipari was plying his trade at places like Massachusetts before failing in the pros; afterward he is winning titles at Kentucky.
Speaking of Kentucky, let’s not forget that before winning an NCAA title at Louisville, Rick Pitino won one at Kentucky years before Calipari did, and that success in Lexington came from Pitino’s failure with the New York Knicks. Then he doubled-down and got a job in the shadow of Churchill Downs after leaving the Kentucky bluegrass for the green of the Celtics. Without those stints in the NBA, does Pitino become the only coach in NCAA men’s basketball history to lead two different schools to national titles? To answer a question with another question, what is the correlation between winning in the NCAA and recruiting NBA-level talent? Discuss amongst yourselves.
This postulate doesn’t just apply to guys who have reached the peak of the NCAA mountain. There’s plenty of coaches who have fattened their college paychecks on a corn-fed diet of NBA failure.
Lon Kruger had moderate success in the feeder ranks SEC and Big Ten, until he got a shot in the bigs with the Atlanta Hawks. The Peachtree City was not kind to Kruger; he went 25-57 in his first season and got fired in his third. Since then, Kruger went back to campus at UNLV and Oklahoma, where he has led teams to the NCAA tourney in five out of nine seasons.
For a long time, Leonard Hamilton was known simply as one of the first of many of Michael Jordan’s many failed experiments with the Washington Wizards coaching spot. His Airness snagged Hamilton from the Miami Hurricanes whom he led to three straight NCAA tournaments from 1997-2000. His sole season in the NBA ended with a 19-63 mark. Since then, he has elevated the Florida State hoops program from a perennial NIT loser to regular NCAA dancer, so much so that the powers that be in Tallahassee just upped his contract to the tune of $2.25 million per year, second only to the sainted Mike Krzyzewski in the ACC.
Even beyond that, Stevens can always be a P.J. Carlisemo type, meaning that he made his bones as a college coach, which allowed him to fail multiple times as a head coach in the NBA. Carlesimo has been the head coach of four different NBA teams, only to a compile a record well under .500. However, Carlesimo has won three NBA rings as an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio, and as an interim coach with this past season’s Brooklyn Nets, he posted a record of 35-19. During all that time, Carlesimo has made “set for life” money multiple times.
What it all comes down to is that Butler fans can be as butt-hurt as they want over Stevens’ departure, but if they didn’t understand this was a possibility, then they are delusional. What is more delusional than that is expecting that he wouldn’t when offered a stupidly fat deal. The only thing possibly more delusional than that is expecting that Stevens can make the Celtics relevant anytime soon.
But, it isn’t like that matters.
Let’s be honest, 2011 was a lousy year in sports. Just look at all the stories which happened in that twelve-month span which completely took away the usual uplifting nature of sports. So, as part of moving forward, I thought it was time to take a look back to a year which for me was the opposite of this one most recently and thankfully past.
That year was 1987.
Ironically, as 2011 brought the low point in the history of Penn State football, 1987 brought one of the highs. The Nittany Lions came into the Fiesta Bowl in 1987 as a prohibitive underdog against the brash, trash-talking Miami Hurricanes. Joe Paterno’s traditional style of football served as the classic antithesis to the wide-open style of Jiimmy Johnson, but the Hurricanes flat-out got beat. If you were watching college football in 1987, there is no way you can forget Pete Giftopoulous’ game-sealing interception in the 4th quarter; the one that cemented Penn State’s second National Championship.
Later that year came the culmination of the 1986–87 season in NCAA men’s ice hockey. To most people, that isn’t such a big deal, but when your alma mater prints its diplomas on hockey pucks, North Dakota’s defeat of Michigan State to capture it’s 6th National Championship was a big deal on that campus.
The end of March means spring is most places, but Grand Forks, North Dakota is not one of them. The average temperature in Grand Forks in March is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit; average of course meaning a great deal of the time it is significantly colder than that. In short, living in Grand Forks in March means nearing the end of a winter where you’ve been trapped indoors, left to three main forms of entertainment: eating, drinking, and fornicating. Naturally, after a while, you become a fat, drunken hump-meister that needs no reason to party.
The Fighting Sioux were such fun to watch that winter; their dominance of the indoor ice was an antidote to the ever-present outdoor variety; in January in Grand Forks, even the air freezes. But thanks to a complement of talent such as Ed Belfour, Tony Hrkac, Bob Joyce, and Ian Kidd, the atmosphere around North Dakota Fighting Sioux games on Friday and Saturday nights warmed to a simply sub-arctic Bacchanalian orgy filled with the aforementioned three surrounding activities. That is why to this day, there is a hockey puck on my desk to remind me of the the hockey season in which I drank more beer, ate more pizza and after-bar food (for those of you who know…who else misses The Red Pepper?), and had more sex than in any other six-month period in my life.
As long as we are on the subject of things that forever combined the concepts of ice rinks and sex, when is there a better time to mention East German figure skating gold medalist Katarina Witt?
After all, when’s the last time you remembered a figure skater for her serious upper-body pride rather than her triple axle?
If a figure skater who doesn’t look like a hockey stick wearing toe-pick blades is rare, then the phenomenon known as Mike Tyson must have been the sporting world’s version of Haley’s Comet.
The boxing world hadn’t seen anything quite like Mike Tyson before, and it certainly hasn’t seen anything quite like him since. The year before, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion at just 19 years old. In March 1987, Tyson nearly (and ironically) crushes several James “Bonecrusher” Smith’s internal organs; a victory which unified the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles. Already the the year before, Tyson became the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Over the course of the next year, Tyson left a trail of corpses formerly known as challengers (four in all) to retain his title. Early in 1988, he added the last of the great “old-school” heavyweight champs to his body-count when he separated Larry Holmes from his consciousness; the only time Holmes ended up looking up during a ten-count in 76 career bouts.
1987 marks the apogee in the meteoric orbit of Tyson’s career; this the last year before the tumult takes over. The following years will bring his divorce from actress Robin Givens, after being accused of domestic violence, the firing and subsequent suing of his manager, breaking his hand in an early morning street brawl, two car accidents (one of which was reportedly a suicide attempt), a rape conviction and related prison sentence, a drug conviction with another stint behind bars, and the Evander Holyfield “ear biting” incident.” Somewhere in that freight train of fouls, Tyson lost the title to a club fighter named Buster Douglas, never to regain it.
Now, let’s go from the rare to the unbelievable. Those of you under 30 may never swallow this, but there was a time in this country when people were all jacked up over yachting, specifically the America’s Cup. Remember that in the 1980’s, thanks to the “Miracle On Ice” and two Olympic boycotts in that same decade, international competitions became more of an issue of national pride than they had ever been previously. This was magnified when it came to the America’s Cup, which not only is the pinnacle of the yachting world, but had never been outside the possession of the Americans in it’s entire history, which dates back to just after the Civil War.
That all changed in 1983 when Kookaburra III, a tub from the Royal Perth Yacht Club wrested the Cup from the Newport Yacht Club. Seriously, people went crazy over this loss. Stories came out about how there was talk replacing the Cup’s place in the club’s trophy case with the head of the skipper who lost it. ESPN got the rights to broadcast the races when the American challenger went to Australia. People stopped in their tracks to watch two hours of boats. Water cooler sports-talk included terms like “jibs” and “tacking.” It was like the Olympics with flat-soled shoes, life jackets, and that white sun-block stuff on your nose.
When skipper Dennis Conner led challenger Stars & Stripes ’87 of the San Diego Yacht Club to a four races to none Cup win over the Australian defender, he literally became a national hero.
Believe it or not, for two weeks in 1987, America went boat-shit crazy.
As far as more conventional sports are concerned, 1987 offered two of the great championship series in sports.
First, there was the NBA Finals. It would be easy to simply say the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers which I grew up on (my dad had season tickets) beat the hated Boston Celtics 4 games to 2. While I loved the outcome, just focusing on that would ignore so many great points of this series.
For example, this series was such a perfect contrast in styles. There is no better word to describe the Lakers than “dominant.” They were a beautiful blend of speed and power, of flash and fundamentals that when they were firing on all cylinders it mattered little who they faced.
Despite that, the Celtics offered the effective foil; not only were they the defending champs, they did it in a way that was a complete opposite of Los Angeles. The Celtics played high-school half-court basketball, but they played it better than anybody ever did.
Even though they were already a championship caliber club, The Lakers were a team on the way up. Michael Cooper emerged as a guard who offered match-up problems of anybody else in the league, A.C. Green, James Worthy, Mychal Thompson, and Kurt Rambis offered a mix-and-match option for a front-court that could beat you ant any game you wanted to play. This was augmented guy named Magic Johnson who was a point guard in a power forward’s body, and was better than anybody at either position. Even the grand old man, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still brought his unstoppable “Skyhook” to the mix.
Meanwhile, even though they were the defending champions, the Celtics were a ship taking on water. The fact they made it to the finals was a major accomplishment, considering the death of Len Bias, the ongoing infirmity of an aging Bill Walton, and nagging injuries to Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Boiled down to basics, this meant the Celtics did not the horses to run with the Lakers.
This is why the Lakers were such a prohibitive favorite. It’s also why just zipping ahead to a Laker 4-2 win is a mistake. Had this series gone seven games, it would be regarded as one of the great NBA Finals of all time.
The Celtics were, for all practical purposes, playing with five players. The Celtics had to play perfectly to win; they did it twice and nearly pulled it off a third time, which is really the only reason this series only went six. It all started in Game 1, when at one point Larry Bird hit 11 shots in a row. This showed the younger, faster Lakers that the Celtics were so resilient that if they lapsed even the smallest bit, Boston could capitalize on that slip.
Secondly amongst the “big” sports came the “boys of summer.” In a year packed with basketball, boxing, and bimbos, baseball belted the prize-winning punch.
For openers, there were so many guys who had great “pre-steroid” seasons. A look at the league leaders in the “Triple Crown Categories” will lead you to that conclusion.
- American League: Wade Boggs, Boston, .363
- National League: Tony Gwynn, San Diego, .370
- American League: George Bell, 134
- National League: Andre Dawson, 137
- American League: Mark McGwire, Oakland, 47
- National League: Andre Dawson, Chicago, 49.
1987 also had a story one might think impossible; a player being traded for himself. Granted, it wasn’t the first time it happened. Thanks to he provision in baseball trades known as the “Player to be named later” (PTBNL), there have been two times when a player has been named on both sides of a trade.
In April 1962, the expansion New York Mets traded catcher Harry Chiti to the Cleveland Indians for the aforementioned PTBNL. By June, the Indians discovered why Chiti was on the trading block to begin with; the Indians gave Chiti back to the Mets as the PTBNL.
The same situation arose in 1987 with career bullpen jockey Dickie Noles. Noles had been ping-ponging around the league as a “have fastball, will travel” type, but in 1987 the last place Cubs offered Noles to the first-place Tigers as one of those trade deadline “bolster the playoff run” moves to which we’ve become so accustomed. The trouble is that Noles sucked so bad the Tigers didn’t want him either, so he was shipped back to the Windy City as…you guessed it…the dreaded PTBNL was also traded for himself in 1987, in a deal between the Cubs and Tigers.
But the real story of baseball in 1987 is the Minnesota Twins. The magic started in June, when the Twins went 18-9 to capture first place in the American League West. They would never be worse than tied for the lead again that season. But it was August when the stars really seem to align for the nine of the North Star state
August 3 – In a moment that brings this team to national attention, Twins pitcher Joe Niekro is suspended for 10 days for possessing a nail file on the pitcher’s mound against the defending division champion California Angels. Niekro claimed he had been filing his nails in the dugout and put the file in his back pocket when the inning started. He later makes an appearance on the David Letterman show in which he makes light of the incident by showing Letterman exactly how to “doctor” a ball.
August 6 – Later in the same West Coast road trip comes the moment where the Twins never look back. The Twins are opening a four-game set with another contender, the Oakland A’s. In Bottom of the 4th inning, the Twins have a 3-1 lead and a one-out, bases-loaded chance to blow the game open thanks to an error by A’s shortstop Alfredo Griffin. The Twins do just that when Kirby Puckett ropes a bases-clearing double off 20-game winner Dave Stewart to put Minnesota ahead for good. The Twins win the game 9-4 to capture sole possession of first place, a lead they would retain until Friday, August 28th…or as I will always call it “The Weekend in Milwaukee.”
August 20 – Even though they’ve just been swept by the Tigers, it dawns on me that the Twins can’t win on the road, but can’t lose at home. This becomes CRUCIAL as this is in the days when the home-field advantage for playoff series were scheduled in advance; in 1987 the American League West Champion would have home field in the championship series, and the American League would enjoy that same advantage in the World Series. This is when I become a firm believer that all the Twins needed to do in win the AL West, and a World Series title would be coming to Minnesota for the first time.
August 29 – The Saturday of “The Weekend in Milwaukee. ” The Twins had lost to the Brewers the night before to find themselves again tied for the AL West lead. The Twins have Bert Blyleven pitching, and the feel in the air is this game is a “must-win” for the Twins playoff hopes.
In the top of the first, Gary Gaetti belts a two-run shot to put the Twins ahead early. Puckett adds a solo shot in the top of the third. By the top of the fifth, the Brewers crept back to 3-2, until Puckett added his second home run of the day. Puckett’s bomb opened the flood gates to a Twin 7-2 lead as it was followed by an RBI single by Tom Brunansky and a 2-RBI single my Steve Lombardozzi. Later, Kent Hrbek blasted a three-run dinger to seal the deal. The Twins capture sole possession of first place and never relinquish it.
August 30 – The Sunday of “The Weekend in Milwaukee,” otherwise known as the day I accepted Kirby Puckett as my Lord and personal Savior. Puckett leads the Twins to a 10-6 victory by going 6-for-6, including two more homers, two doubles, and 6 RBIs. This made for a two-day total in a critical series of 10 hits in 11 at-bats, 4 home runs, 8 runs batted in, 7 runs scored, and 24 total bases. Oh, and somewhere amongst that offense-gasm, Puckett also robbed future Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount of a home run.
There were so many more moments along the way to the Twins World Series Title…the game against the Royals when the Twins rode three first-inning home runs to clinch the division title, or Game 4 of the ALCS where the Tigers’ Darrell Evans became the goat to end all goat, or hometown hero Kent Hrbek’s game-sealing grand slam in Game 6 of the World Series.
There were also many firsts. The Twins were the first team with only 85 regular-season wins. Game 1 of the 1987 World Series was the first World Series game played indoors. It was also the first World Series in which the home team won every game. Most importantly, it was the Twins first Championship since the franchise moved to Minnesota.
When one talks of “flagship franchise,” it is hard to discuss the National Basketball Association without mentioning the Los Angeles Lakers in that capacity. The Lakers were the first dynasty in the history of the league, stemming all the way back to their original home from which the team name came; the City of Lakes, Minneapolis. All the way back to that era of dominance in the 1950’s through Sunday night, the Lakers have one of the greatest winning traditions in all professional sports. Even just limiting the look back to the last three decades, the Lakers have won 10 championships; which is the most of any team in any of the “Big 4″ North American sports leagues.
In all that time, this franchise has been affiliated with a litany of names which rank in basketball immortality…George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, John Kundla, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Phil Jackson. All those men carved their initials into the championship traditions which live in Laker land, but along with those who are revered, there are those who are reviled.
The trouble is that after the worst defeat that any Laker fan had ever seen, the “reviled” list may now include a few guys who were wearing the purple and gold last night. I’ve been a Laker fan my whole life; my father has a picture in his house with his name on the scoreboard at the old Forum. But if you listened to sports radio in the Southland on Monday, you would think Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum wore turbans and had “bin Laden” somewhere in their names. I’m not here to defend either of those guys; rather I’m here to remind Laker fans that the vitriol for the guys who have found ways to stop Los Angeles from winning should be reserved for those wearing the other team’s colors. To that end, here’s 20 examples of guys more worthy of your ire…if you need to hate on a former Laker, they are noted in purple.
20) Dennis Rodman
Rodman isn’t the only example on this list who wore a Laker uniform at one point, but there are far more reasons for Laker fans to hate him beyond his cameo in purple and gold in 1999. Before all of the tattoos, the multi-colored hair styles, and the wedding dress, Dennis Rodman was a key member of the very same “Bad Boy” Pistons who stole the NBA Title from the Lakers in 1989. Then, he joined forces with the then-hated Phil Jackson and still-hated Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to dominate the league from 1995-1998. Then comes 1999, where Rodman proved more of a hindrance than a help to the Lakers.
19) Sam Jones
NBA fans under the age of 60 may not remember Sam Jones, but true basketball historians can’t forget him. Jones is the second greatest team winner in professional sports history behind fellow Boston Celtic Bill Russell; in his career, Jones won 10 NBA titles. The Lakers claimed Jones back in their days in the North Star state, but Jones went back to school and ended up in that disgusting Celtic green. Jones ended up as one of the premier shooting guards of his era, but to Laker fans he is best known for Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals. In this case, Jones fouled Elgin Baylor away from what would have been a game-winning tip-in, but the clear foul was not called. Jones went on to be a thorn in the Laker’s side for nearly another decade.
18) Ralph Sampson
The single highlight of the 7’4″ Sampson’s career was the incredible shot he hit to knock the Lakers out of the 1986 Western Conference Finals. What could have been a third consecutive year of having L.A. and Boston in the Finals was derailed by a guy who never hit a meaningful shot again.
17) John Havlicek
Yet another Celtic on this list, Havlicek was one of the best all-around players in NBA history. More importantly, as a member of the hated Green, he won eight championships, five of which came at the expense of the Lakers.
16) Don Nelson
Many people forget about Don Nelson and his role in defeating Laker teams, including the ones he played on from 1963-1965, which is hard to imagine considering he a) also played for the Celtics and b) coached every single team in the NBA except the Lakers, and at least 40 or 50 in Europe. He hit a bunch free throws for the Celtics sealing the 1968 NBA Finals, and the next year he hit a game-winning jumper that sealed the 11th career NBA championship for teammate Bill Russell. Not to mention, Nelson-coached teams just pissed me off; with that bullshit “Nellie-Ball, up-tempo, what’s defense?” style.
15) Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen will forever be known as the Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman. Perhaps the greatest wing defender of all time, Pippen’s versatility proved to be the perfect compliment for Jordan. Yet, it was his play with the Portland Trailblazers that really pisses off Laker’s fans. Known for his dirty play, Pippen nearly helped Portland pull off a huge upset in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, and when the Trail Blazers lost to the Lakers, Pippen acted a lot like Andrew Bynum except without the bush-league foul.
14) Willis Reed
Everybody loves to trot out that 1970 Championship game where the ambulance dropped Reed at mid-court and he single-handedly willed the Knicks to beat the Lakers, cure cancer, and cause a warp in the space-time continuum ensuring the sorry-ass Knicks would always relevant. Lakers fans love to remember the dominant 1971-1972 team which won a record 33 consecutive games, but the Reed-led Knicks won two out of three Finals series against the Lakers between 1970 and 1973.
13) Paul Pierce
For a guy who grew up in the shadow of the old Forum, playing against the Lakers seems to bring out the best in Pierce.; his 26.0 ppg career average against Los Angeles is his highest against any team. Then there is the “wheelchair incident” from the 2008 Finals, where he faked an injury to have his own “Willis Reed” moment and put the momentum back on the Celtics’ side en route to a Finals MVP performance.
12) Isaiah Thomas
God, I hate this little cocksucker. At least history has shown him to be a complete piece of shit, so I’m validated. As the leader of all those “burn-in-hell” Pistons teams of the late ’80’s, its bad enough he pulled that record 25 point performance in the third quarter of Game 6 of the 1988 Finals against the Lakers despite playing on a severely sprained ankle. The following year, Thomas helped lead Detroit to a four-game sweep over an injury-depleted Laker squad, then celebrated on-court as if he had just single-handedly made the entire city of Detroit NOT a third-world shithole.
11) Tim Duncan
The old Roberta Flack song “Killing Me Softly” should be about Tim Duncan. Known as the “The Big Fundamental,” Duncan is one of the best bigs in the history of the game, but watching him play is like watching concrete harden. Unfortunately for Lakers fans, his reign came during the Lakers dynasty years led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and on more than on occasion he hardened that concrete around the feet of the Lakers and sank them (see 1999 and 2003).
10) Ray Allen
Allen is the best long-range shooter in NBA history, and he has pumped more than one sniper round into the Lakers. In Game 2 of last year’s Finals against LA, he hit a record eight three-pointers. However, Laker fans will always relish his 0-13 debacle a few days later in Game 3. Depsite that, Allen was clutch in Boston’s win over the Lakers in 2008.
9) Kevin Garnett
Similar to the other members of the Celtics on this enemies list, Garnett is know to Laker fans for one distinguishing trait. In Garnett’s case, he is so good at setting a moving screen he should be a pulling guard in the NFL. He also doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for being a cheap-shot artist.
8 ) Bill Russell
Do you see the pattern developing here…another asshole in Celtic green. He got a pass for all the racist bullshit he had to endure in Boston, but Russell was as mean and arrogant as any player the NBA has seen (nobody ever talks about how many fights he started). All in all, as arguably the greatest player of all-time, and certainly the best rebounder and shot blocker of all-time, Russell emerged victorious over the Lakers seven times without a loss.
7) Bill Laimbeer
Here’s a guy who embodied what was wrong with those cheap-ass, punk-bitch Pistons teams of the 80’s. Laimbeer holds a special place in the hearts Lakers fans…actually, he was despised everywhere except Detroit. The Laimbeer model was to absolutely shit-hammer defenseless players, then flop like a soccer player as the slightest breeze.
6) Chauncey Billups
For some reason, Billups is a player that seems to play his best against the Lakers. One shouldn’t be surprised as he started his career with the Boston Celtics. Yet, it was 2004 as a Detroit Piston which earned his place on this list. Billups put up a performance for the ages when he led Detroit to a championship by averaging 21 points per game while shooting 51% from the floor, 47% from 3-point land, and 93% from the stripe.
5) Walt Frazier
Willis Reed’s comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals totally overshadowed Walt Frazier being the MVP of that game. In securing the big win for the Knicks, Frazier poured in 36 points and 19 assists against the Lakers. Then for good measure, he reprised that role in the 1973 Finals win against LA.
4) Karl Malone
Malone was known for years as being a dirty player, throwing elbows and setting hard picks. Along the way, Malone proved himself as the greatest scoring power forward in NBA history. In 1997 and 1998, Malone’s dominant play helped bounce the Lakers from the playoffs. For years, the Lakers wanted to lure Malone to Los Angeles. But, he stayed in Utah until he could finally be a broken down old wreck as a Laker.
3) Michael Jordan
“The greatest player of all time.” That completely fraudulent statement is reason enough alone to hate MJ; but that rant is for another time. There’s no denying he had his moments of dominance against the Lakers; in the 1991 NBA Finals, MJ averaged 31.2 points per game, 11.4 assists, and 2.8 steals, while shooting 56% percent from the field.
2) Larry Bird
The Bottom Line: The greatest player to wear the evil Celtic green during that Magic-Bird rivalry era in the 80’s has to be on the list, and high on it at that. As a leader of the Celtics, Bird represents everything a Lakers fan hates.
1) Kevin McHale
For the longest time, I wanted Kevin McHale dead. And not just dead; I wanted to drink beer out of his hollowed-out skull and piss on what was left of him. But his complete and total failure as an NBA general manager ensured I will never see him as anything other that a talking head. Most Laker fans remember McHale for his clothesline of Kurt Rambis in the 1894 Finals. Had that flagrant foul happened in the NBA of today, he would have been suspended and fined. Instead, this play seemed to help shift some of the series momentum towards Boston, and McHale showed the world yet another Celtics player willing to be a cheap bitch.
Honorable Mention – Phil Jackson
Let’s not forget what Jackson was before his stints as the Laker coach and the 5 championships he won in Los Angeles. Don’t forget Jackson was a key member of the Knicks teams that beat the Lakers in 1970 and 1973. Let’s not forget the six titles he coached the Bulls to in the 90’s. If it weren’t for those five Laker rings, he would have had to be on this list. Maybe he should be anyway…