So big, it should be on Versus


A series big enough to be described in one word.

For nearly three decades, the most important word in basketball.

It has been silent lately, buried since the mid-1980s underneath the far more rudimentary concepts of Badboys and MichaelsBulls and KobeShaq.


But now it is back, unearthed by trades, hauled in by superstars, dusted off by destiny, a priceless antique returned to America’s showroom for a two-week run.


Thirteen letters long, but miles deep.

When the Lakers meet the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals for the 11th time beginning Thursday, it will not be an ending, but a continuation, another chapter in a book written with Magic and Bird, Balloons and Clotheslines, Massacres and Heat, Old Man Cigars and Baby Sky Hooks

The hair is shorter and the shorts are longer, but the story lines remain as spicy as salsa, as thick as chowder, and as enduring as the hundreds of bad regional analogies that will surely follow.

Kobe vs. Ray

Remember four years ago, after the trade of Shaquille O’Neal, when only one NBA player had the nerve to publicly rip Kobe Bryant for his alleged role in it?

That player was Ray Allen, and guess who will be guarding Bryant this week?

Said Allen in 2004: “He’s going to be very selfish. And he feels like he needs to show the league and the people of this country that he is better without Shaq.”

Responded Bryant: “Don’t put me and him in the same sentence.”

Countered the prescient Allen: “In about a year or two, he’ll be calling out to Jerry Buss that, ‘We need some help in here’ or, ‘Trade me.’ ”

Since then, the two reportedly have reached a truce.


Joker vs. joker

The Lakers have a human mascot known for his smile and his sunglasses.

The Celtics have a human mascot known for his hoodie and his half-baked excuses for spying on his enemies.

During the fourth quarter of every home game, the Laker fans will give a standing ovation to Jack Nicholson.

During games in Boston, the Celtics fans will give similar ovations to New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, who may or may not be talking into his shoe.

The Machine vs. the Big Ticket

No offense to black mambas, Kobe, but the Lakers’ coolest nickname belongs to Sasha Vujacic.

Calling him a machine is great fun because, well, he isn’t. He stops and starts and sputters and sweats. But when he somehow throws in a three-pointer, it’s a blast to let out a giant sigh and shout with great irony, “the Machine!”

Meanwhile, the Celtics’ most popular nickname belongs to Kevin Garnett, who is called “the Big Ticket.”

The problem is, the dude has been in the league for 13 years and I’m still wondering, he’s a big ticket to what?

The Laker Girls

vs. the Celtic Dancers

While the Lakers were the first team to extensively use in-game dancers, the Celtics were the last.

The difference can be found in the pages of an on-line diary written by a current Celtic Dancer named Michelle.

“With the Celtics exceeding 60 wins, I got to thinking: As a Celtic Dancer, what I have done 60 times this year?” she wrote.

Her first answer?

“Fake tanned.”

Phil vs. Red

It is sad that the late Celtics coaching icon Red Auerbach will not be here to see his Celtics defend the honor of his nine championships.

If the Lakers’ Phil Jackson wins his 10th title, breaking a record he shares with Red, here’s hoping he’ll smoke a championship cigar as a tribute.

Staples Tradition

vs. Garden Tradition

Parquet, smarquet, that thing in Boston is still just a floor.

Traitor-haters vs. Sam Cassell

Remember when Cassell openly campaigned to leave the Clippers while he was still a Clipper?

In case you haven’t noticed, he ended up in Boston, where his mouth is again running more than his legs.

Welcome back.

Chant vs. Chant

In the early days of this championship rivalry, the Celtics fans invented the “Beat L.A.” chant.

The Lakers will respond this week with a simple, “M-V-P, M-V-P.”

The Boston chant is wish.

The Lakers chant is a reality.

Clothesline vs. Lifeline

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Celtics were real tough guys during Kevin McHale’s legendary clothesline foul of Kurt Rambis in the 1984 Finals.

But check out the video. Just so you know. Look who helped Rambis off the floor and seemed to be apologizing for the foul.

Yeah, Larry Bird.

Randy Newman vs. Gino

The Lakers’ celebratory song, “I Love L.A.,” is a funky and appropriate tribute to the city.

The Celtics’ celebratory song is a disco hit accompanied by an ancient “American Bandstand” video featuring a mustachioed dancer wearing a shirt bearing the name, “Gino.”

So many fans have tried to imitate the guy’s moves, the moment is called “Gino Time.”

Sorry, but watching thousands of New Englanders attempt to boogie is like watching Bill Belichick attempt to smile.

Mitch vs. Danny

It was the Celtics’ Danny Ainge who pocketed -- literally -- this year’s tiny executive-of-the-year trophy.

But it was the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak who deserved it.

Yes, Ainge acquired Garnett and Allen in the off-season, but he had to give up the likes of Al Jefferson, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak.

Kupchak kept Kobe Bryant and acquired Pau Gasol and what did it cost him?

A little restraint and Kwame Brown.

The streets of L.A. vs. Paul Pierce

When the Celtics’ Pierce returns to his Los Angeles home, here’s hoping he leaves his street gestures in his expensive suitcase.

Despite all the anti-gang work done by Pierce’s charities, none of it received more publicity than the alleged gang sign he flashed at the Atlanta Hawks earlier in the playoffs.

After the Celtics lose in five games, a simple goodbye wave will do.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to