The two clubs have combined for 33 championships and 52 finals appearances, which blows everyone else out of the water. If you added up historical news by every NBA franchise, no one surpasses all-time Lakers news nor Celtics news in terms of sheer quantity. These teams were just build different. They also happen to comprise the most historic rivalry in the sport.
Lakers vs Celtics, which franchise is better, is an argument fans have been having forever.
This is a debate that has consumed Celtics and Lakers fans for quite some time.
Boston has one more title than Los Angeles, but the Lakers have 10 more finals appearances. The C’s currently have 36 players in the Hall of Fame. The Lakers have 23.
In terms of popularity? It’s not particularly close: LA holds the edge.
So, is there really a clear winner here?
Well, there are a couple of different ways we can look at this.
If you are strictly going by banners, the Celtics are out in front, but the fact that the Lakers have been in the finals considerably more (particularly recently) has to be taken into account. In fact, the Lakers historical records are absurd.
Plus, outside of the six-season stretch between 2014 and 2019, Los Angeles has never really had a lengthy down period in its history, whereas the Celtics were bad throughout the ’90s and the early 2000s. Boston landing Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen during the summer of 2007 ended the franchise’s blues, and since then, the C’s have been incredibly fruitful, but we cannot ignore the fact that they were in dire straits for a decade-and-a-half.
But then you have to take into consideration the fact that the Lakers have not won all of their titles in Los Angeles. Five of their 16 championships came in Minneapolis, so if you really think about it Los Angeles has only won 11, well behind its East Coast enemies. Seriously: do you consider the Oklahoma City Thunder the same as the Seattle Supersonics?
Of course, that argument will drive Lakers fans up a wall, but it absolutely deserves to be a part of this discussion.
As you can see, none of this is cut and dry. For example, at what point do we start taking into account the fact that the Celtics have won nine of the 12 finals matchups between the two squads? To be fair, the Lakers have won three of the last four, but this isn’t about who has been better since 1985; this is about which franchise is superior in totality.
Honestly, there is no right or wrong answer here, and let’s face it: Celtics fans are going to say the Celtics. Lakers fans are going to say the Lakers. Then you have everyone in between. Most other fanbases hate both Boston and LA anyway, so the votes will roughly be evenly dispersed.
What we really should do is simply have an appreciation for just how great these two franchises are and how the NBA would not be remotely close to the same without them.
Think about all of the great players who have walked through the doors for both teams. Bill Russell. Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Garnett. Kobe Bryant. Paul Pierce. James Worthy. Wilt Chamberlain. John Havlicek. Shaquille O’Neal. Kevin McHale. Now, LeBron James. Perhaps one day, Jayson Tatum will also be worthy of mention.
I can sit here forever and list all of the names.
And yes, the rivalry between these two teams has dissipated. There is no doubt about that. It was actually pretty much dead in the water until the Celtics and Lakers revitalized it with two finals meetings in three years between 2008 and 2010.
But since then? It has been lackluster, at best. Thankfully, both teams are now actually good at the same time for the first time in a while, so maybe we will see a rebirth.
Even with that, there is something special about whenever you see the green and purple going head to head. Even if you weren’t around at the time the rivalry was at its peak in the Bird-Magic days, the magic (no pun intended) still lingers.
No, it isn’t Yankees-Red Sox, because they actually meet 18 or 19 times a year rather than the two scheduled battles the Celtics and Lakers have every season.
But if Boston and Los Angeles ever meet in the finals again? The buzz will be like nothing else, because everyone and their dog knows that there is something very different about it.
We can go back and forth for hours on end about which franchise is better, and truthfully, you wouldn’t be wrong no matter which side you pick. But instead of turning it into an argument, how about just admiring what the Celtics and Lakers have done—and continue to do—for the NBA?