Celtics vs. Lakers: Which laundry are you cheering for?
Too many trades hurt team identity and rivalry.
On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics will resume the most famous rivalry in professional basketball. The two teams met in the NBA Finals seven times in the 1960s and three times in the 1980s, leaving an indelible mark on the game. So to American sports commentators and fans, who are sentimentalists at heart, this year's Final looks like a blast from the past.Skip to next paragraph
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Look again. Sports rivalries as we once knew them are dead, strangled by the constant movement of players between teams. These days, it seems, pro athletes change their uniforms more often than their underwear. That's why comedian Jerry Seinfeld has famously likened spectator sports to "cheering for the laundry."
This year in the NBA, there's plenty of new laundry to cheer for.
The Lakers were also-rans until January, when they acquired forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. And the Celtics were absolutely woeful before the arrival of Kevin Garnett (from Minnesota) and Ray Allen (from Seattle). One Celtic reserve, Sam Cassell, is playing for his eighth NBA team; another, P.J. Brown, is on his sixth one.
Just before the trading deadline in February, in fact, more than 50 players changed squads in 11 different transactions. And one of those trades involved 11 different players! Quick, can you name the current employer of Ben Wallace, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, or Wally Szczerbiak? I didn't think so.
True, Lakers superstar and 2008 Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant has been on the same team all along. Between 2000 and 2002, Bryant joined with Shaquille O'Neal to win three league titles. But then O'Neal departed for Miami, which traded him this season to the Phoenix Suns. The only other present-day Laker who played on the old championship teams is Derek Fisher, who made stops in the Golden State and Utah before coming back.