30 for 30 on Celtics-Lakers storied rivalry set to debut in June

What if I told you ESPN was going to make a 30 for 30 on the greatest rivalry in professional sports? Everyone remain calm because it's happening! The 30 for 30 documentary series on ESPN, which debuted in 2009, is easily one of the best things the worldwide leader has done in recent memory. The films are consistently great, and tell some of the most intriguing, important, and sometimes controversial stories in the history of sports. It's the perfect stage to tell the storied history of the Celtics vs Lakers.

The film will be helmed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Jonathan Hock. He's responsible for some of the best 30 for 30s already produced; including "Unguarded" (on former Celtic Chris Herron and his struggles with addiction), "The Best that Never Was", "Of Miracles and Men", and a personal favorite, "Survive and Advance" (the story of Jim Valvano).

Hock certainly has a lot of material to work with with as the Lakers and the Celtics battles began in the 1950s. It seems that both he and ESPN are intent on showcasing how these two teams, and their rivalry, go beyond basketball and certainly have a lot of cultural significance as well. Via Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:

“There’s really a lot to work with here,” said John Dahl, the vice president and executive producer for ESPN Films and Original Content. “This isn’t just a basketball story but a cultural one. I think the film will create a lot of buzz because the Celtics and Lakers are eternally marquee franchises.”

Hock also spoke on the various divides these two teams created, and the perceptions that people made of the teams and what they represented:

“The irony was going back to the 1960s, the Celtics were far away the most racially progressive organization in basketball, If not all of major sports,” Hock said. “But people perceived them to be the white team in the 1980s and the Lakers as the black team. The most revealing anecdote so far for me was from Cedric Maxwell. After leading the Celtics in scoring in Game 7 of the 1984 Finals against the Lakers, Maxwell went home to North Carolina, expecting to be celebrated by all his old friends. Instead, they were all mad at him, telling him they had all been rooting for the Lakers. They saw the Celtics as the ‘white’ team and identified with the Lakers.”

Between the cultural and social significance of the rivalry, and the many iconic moments that ensued over the almost 60 years that the Celtics and Lakers have battled, we should be in for quite a spectacle with this production. The project is set to cover the two teams over the entire period of the rivalry, although there will be a focus on the peak era of the 1980s.

Hock has already started production and done some interviews for the films(s). The project is likely to air as two 90 to 120-minute episodes that are set to debut around the NBA Finals in June. That marks the 30th anniversary of the Celtics-Lakers final championship matchup of the 80s in 1987.

Photo Credit - Boston Globe

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