The 2020/21 NBA season is about to come to its conclusion as the playoffs run their course. Clinging on to a place in the next phase, at the time of writing, are the LA Lakers who are just one game away from elimination.
A loss will mean that the Lakers will not have an opportunity to add to their haul of 17 titles and they will remain locked at the top of the overall leaderboard with the Boston Celtics. Both teams are giants of the game and their joint record is even more remarkable considering how big a gap there is between themselves and the chasing franchises.
Tied at the Top
Los Angeles Lakers are the defending champions having won the NBA Championship at the end of the 2019/20 campaign. That reign may be brief but they have a proud record of 17 Championship pennants which began with victory back in 1949.
Fans of the Boston Celtics had to wait a little longer for their team to claim an opening NBA Championship. The Celtics landed their first title in 1957 and, by 1986, they were at the top of the tree with 16 victories. That 17th trophy became elusive but the wait was over in 2008 when Boston were crowned champions of the NBA once again.
Neither team may add to those records in 2021 but they remain among the most dangerous teams in the association. Support comes from the fans but the Lakers and the Celtics also enjoy backing among the betting markets where great odds and offers are provided by the DraftKings sportsbook.
NBA finals odds are open for much of the year and, because of that history, LA Lakers and Boston Celtics always attract interest. Both franchises have proud records but just why have they been so successful?
In both cases, it is possible to find periods in the history of the NBA where the two sides have been dominant. As we’ve already seen, the Celtics have only won one championship since 1986 but the Boston franchise claimed no fewer than 11 titles between 1957 and 1969.
In 13 seasons, the Celtics only failed to win the pennant on two occasions so it’s fair to say that the late 1950s and the whole of the 1960s were Boston’s golden years.
As for the Lakers, their successes are more evenly distributed: Their first 11 victories came between 1949 and 1988 before a 12 year wait for title number 12. The LA franchise would then become the dominant team in the first decade of the new millennium. No fewer than five pennants would land between 2000 and 2010 before that 17th success in 2020.
Having established the years in which those teams enjoyed their NBA golden periods, it’s easier to understand why they are at the top of the tree.
It’s no coincidence that both the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers have fielded some of the greatest players to have ever graced a basketball court. In the case of the Celtics, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kevin McHale, Sam Jones and Robert Parish are among the many standout players of the past.
In fact, Russell’s performances in the NBA are so legendary that the MVP finals trophy is now named in his honor. The individual award only came along in 1969 so it unfortunately skipped much of the Celtics’ dominant years but there have been some notable Boston winners.
John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Cedric Maxwell, Larry Bird (twice) and Paul Pierce are the men who have collectively claimed six MVP awards for the Celtics between 1974 and 2008. A member of the Dream Team that won Olympic Gold for the US in 1992, Bird is, potentially, the standout player from Boston’s all-time roster. Perhaps his most curious stat predates his NBA career when he stayed on at college for an extra year and helped his Indiana State team record an unbeaten season in 1979.
The Greatest of All Time?
Within the Lakers historical roster, they have more than one player who could claim to be the ‘GOAT’ – the greatest of all time. LeBron James, Magic Johnson and the much-missed Kobe Bryant head up an all-star Lakers list which also includes Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Of those names, James is still playing and his arrival at the Lakers in 2018 sparked a boost that saw the team claim their first title in 10 years. Along with Michael Jordan, four-time champion LeBron has the distinction of winning the MVP award in every finals series that he’s featured in.
Hard Acts to Follow
The joint record of 17 wins is made even more remarkable when we consider the huge gap to the chasing pack. Behind the Celtics and the Lakers, the teams in joint third place in the overall NBA list are the Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls with just six titles apiece.
Can anyone emulate the success of the leaders or, could Boston or the Lakers even add to their tallies in the near future? The Celtics have just one title since 1986 and the present team is a shadow of their former champions.
The Lakers look more likely to claim a place at the top of the outright list. Much could depend on LeBron James but a place in the playoffs in 2021 suggests that there’s more to come from this LA franchise.