The U.S. National Basketball Association finals tip-off Thursday night in Boston. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer reports it's a match-up between two teams that many hoped they would see.
The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are two of the NBA's most storied franchises and two teams that have played some memorable series in past years. Combined, they have won 30 of the NBA's 61 titles.
Sixteen of those championships have been won by the Celtics, which ranks them third among all teams in North America, behind only baseball's New York Yankees with 26, and the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens with 24.
This will be the 12th meeting in the NBA finals for the Celtics and Lakers, but the first since 1987, when the Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, were victorious in the best-of-seven series in six games over a Boston team led by Larry Bird.
The Lakers big star this time, league Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant, understands how big this rivalry is. "It's a classic rivalry, one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and you know the country seems to be kind of re-energized by it, at least the NBA fans, because of us matching up now," said Pau Gasol of Spain, who joined the Lakers in a trade in mid-season, says people can talk about the Los Angeles-Boston rivalry, but he just wants an NBA title.
"It's a big opportunity for us to get a championship, and that's the only way I look at it, no matter who we play. I know there's a tradition and a rivalry and everything you want. But when it comes down to it, it's just a chance to win a championship," he said.
The first two games in the best-of-seven series will be played in Boston, which earned the home court advantage by having the NBA's best regular season record with 66 wins against 16 losses. The Lakers were 57 and 25 for the best record in the NBA's Western Conference.
With the Boston-Los Angeles match-up, television viewership for the finals is expected to increase dramatically from last year when the San Antonio-Cleveland Cavaliers series averaged a record low rating (of 6.2 percent of U.S. homes with television tuned in). If the series goes six or seven games as expected, the NBA could attract its highest ratings since Michael Jordan's last championship with the Chicago Bulls 10 years ago (18.7 rating).