After letting a double-digit lead slip away in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Celtics let more than a game slide between their finger tips. This group had a chance to write a chapter of their own in the storied history of this franchise. One championship is not enough. In a story book that contains heroes who've won as many as eleven and as little as three - one ring is merely a footnote. 

"The best part about playing in Boston is the worst part as well," Doc Rivers said back in May. "There's great history. It's a great city, a great sports city. Probably as good as you can get".

A great history and fantastic legacy to compete with. Unfortunately: with Tom Thibodeau leaving for the Bulls, the age of the roster, and uncertainty about the return of Doc Rivers, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace - this year could've very well been this Celtics squad's last chance for a championship run.

Meanwhile, the Boston franchise now finds itself holding onto a slim one banner lead in all time championships. While the chance for Boston to make a repeat appearance in the Finals next year is marginal, it wouldn't be unrealistic to picture Kobe and co. repeating for the third straight year. That would put the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers tied with Boston at 17 trophies.

The Celtics' standing as the top franchise in the NBA is rapidly slipping away. In the '50s and '60s, Bill Russell dominated LA on the way to giving Boston a nice buffer with 11 championships. Yet, the Lakers have caught up. While Boston still holds a decisive 9-3 advantage in Finals head-to-heads, the stat is a bit misleading. 

Seven of those victories were earned by Russell's teams - over 30 years ago. The tale's looked a bit different in recent years. Since the Lakers beat the Celtics for the first time in 1985, L.A. holds a 3-1 lead in the epic clashes. Furthermore, since the Bird-era, the Lakers have won 10 championships compared to the Celtics' 4. Both teams failed to earn a ring as they watched Michael Jordan in the '90s, but it was LA whom - behind Shaq and Kobe - picked themselves up to return to NBA dominance in the 2000s. The Celtics, on the other hand, did not recover from the death of Len Bias and the existence of Chris Wallace until 2008. 

After Thursday's loss, it's hard not to argue that the Lakers are the best franchise in the NBA. They've been able to stay consistent - missing the playoffs only five times in team history. On Thursday, the Celtics had a chance to put a road block in LA's success - becoming the team to win 2 championships in the last 3 years. Instead, it's the Lakers who earn those bragging rights. This generation's Lakers have won 5 championships, while the modern day Celtics have brought Boston only one. 

In a way, Bill Russell handing LA their 16th trophy is rather fitting. The man who established Boston as the most successful franchise in NBA history hands the Lakers the item that puts them inches closer to taking over that spot. While the hatred between the two teams would never allow the torch to pass pleasantly - the Lakers have taken it. 

Despite this, the future is not all that dim for Boston. While the face of the team will change, the emergence of Rondo gives Celtics fans hope. It's no secret that the young point guard holds the future of this franchise in his over-sized hands. His progress and the help he receives could spur a new era of riches in Celtic history.

Boston has a lot of ground to make up on LA. If they want to re-establish themselves as the class of the league, they need to continue to stand in the Lakers' way. Their best chance to do that is with Rondo.

Michael Saver 6/20/2010 08:39:00 PM Edit
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4 Responses so far.

  1. tb727 says:

    Terrific article Mike, and thanks for yet another link to that Buffoon's page lol.

    You couldn't have said it any better. I really think if you look back to the November 2007 regular season game in LA with the Celts and Lakers: Boston demolished them by like 20 on the road without Rondo and Tony Allen starting in his place. It was the game where Lamar Scrotum got suspended for shoving Ray Allen into the bench. The difference in talent was huge; the Celts were on the cusp of making up for those lost years in the early part of this decade.

    But then Chris the Buffoon Wallace comes in and hands them Gasol for nothing 2 months later. No rotational players included. He could've given Gasol to 28 other teams with similar offers. And if anyone thinks Marc Gasol turned out to be good answer this: wouldn't this series vs Lal have been a hell of a lot easier if it was Marc Gasol and Bynum inside instead of Pau Gasol? Marc's a solid player but he's not in the same league as his brother.

    If the Spurs won 2 of the last 3 seasons not too many would care. Same if he sent Gasol to Cleveland. But he kept him in his same conference and totally changed the complexity of the NBA. So in the past 3 years where the Celtics arguably could've hoisted 3 banners and separated themselves even further, it was our most hated enemy that's gotten 2 of them.

    Thanks again Chris Wallace. You SUCKED as a GM for Boston for a solid decade and once you left, continued making it difficult for us. If you had any idea how much I hated you, you'd hide in a cave in Afghanistan for the rest of your life.

  2. Guess you'd hate to hear this too:
    Griz GM Wallace agrees to new deal - http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nba/news/story?id=5307953

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree, and the only way for the celtics to come back is to add some young shooters so Rondo will have an easier time. Resigning Paul Pierce is key as well. Since Bird, no player has been more identifiable with the Celtics than the Truth. Getting a Joe Johnson or maybe go for Joe Johnson or maybe a Bosh would be nice.

  4. Bohemian says:

    Very nice article but I disagree. There is no torch to be passed, we are and we will be the best team in the world. Period. The Lakers will never take it from us

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