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The Celtics were the long-time torturers of many NBA greats

There is a tremendous longform by Jack McCallum on the 1985 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers over at – tremendous both in quality and quantity – you'll want to block off some time for reading it in its entirety. I found a smaller selection that was really interesting to me, a child on the cusp of the 80's and 90's. It compares the dominance of the Celtics/Lakers in the 80's to that of the Bulls in the 90's.

The interesting part is how that dominance affected others:

I had begun covering the league at that juncture, an accident of timing for which there is no limit to my gratitude. Back then there was no Internet beast to feed daily (a geezeresque observation if ever there was one), so story lines and themes were limited—and for several years they pretty much came down to Lakers/Celtics/Magic/Bird. You couldn't get past it. If you wrote about one team or one player, devotees of the other would call you out. To this day some still claim that I favored Bird over Magic, while others say I favored Magic over Bird. I answer this way: First I wrote a story suggesting that Bird was the greatest player ever, then I wrote a story saying that, no, Magic was the greatest player ever, then I wrote a story saying that Jordan was better than either of them.

Even the greatness of others was drawn upon the Lakers/Celtics/Magic/Bird canvas. Could Dr. J finally get past both of them and win a title? Yes, but only once, with his terrific 1983 76ers team that included Moses Malone. Same for the Ralph Sampson/Akeem Olajuwon Rockets in the West: They got by the Lakers in 1986, but they were a one-off conference champion, and anyway, they couldn't beat the Celtics in the Finals. All the other great players from that era—Bernard King, Sidney Moncrief, Adrian Dantley, George Gervin, Alex English—had their dreams crushed by either L.A. or Boston, in a preview of what Jordan's Bulls would do to so many other stars (Stockton, Malone, Barkley, Ewing) in the '90s.

There's so much great basketball played in the 1980's and 1990's, and in my mind it really is almost all colored Red, Gold and Green.

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