Boston Celtics Larry Bird and Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson with Pat O'Brien at the 1990 NBA All-Star Game

If any two franchises in any sport can be considered “joined at the hip,” the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are two great candidates as any. As we now approach the 75th anniversary of the NBA, consider: The Celtics and Lakers have won an amazing 34 of 75 and have combined played in 52 Finals. However, the mutual dominance of both teams didn’t exist until the CBS era. It is, of course, the era here that deserves our attention the most. Between 1973-88, in 15 possible Finals attempts, the teams would win a combined 10 titles. And, of course, they would leave us with perhaps the greatest (and last ) Finals rivalry that we have had to date. But, in May 1990, the good times officially ended for both franchises. In that “lost month,” both great franchises would lose to a team that they previously smacked around (The Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks) routinely. Furthermore, the demise also marked the physical(Pat Riley) and the official (Red Auerbach) departure of two men who (in 1990) would have been the only candidates for the top two spots in NBA history as coaches. Of course, it would be another month before CBS would officially say goodbye to the NBA, but we can safely say the beginning of the end happened in the “lost month” of May 1990.

P.S.– The reasons that each team lost are almost as amazing as the series defeats. Personnel issues, bad trades, coach dismissals, and even free agency all played a huge role. That will be discussed in future posts. But for now, IMO the beginning of the end actually was at the height of the power struggle for NBA supremacy. That happened in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals in the last 15 seconds of regulation. In a future post, we will relive just what happened and its aftermath. For at that moment, a coaching legend was solidified, and a defensive hero had as his reward exile. Stay tuned.

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