Every NBA franchise has an arch-nemesis, the upstream current they constantly fight in addition to a menagerie of bugaboos and rivals.
Harry Potter has Voldemort, Batman has the Joker, Pawnee has Eagleton.
The word nemesis derives its meaning from the Greek goddess of retributive justice. It’s defined today as an inescapable agent of downfall, the bane of one’s existence.
Just like those real-world examples listed above, each NBA franchise carries a menagerie of bugaboos and rivals, the upstream current they constantly fight in addition to any on-court opposition.
Some nemeses are nascent, others deep-rooted, some are physical, while others spiritual. Regardless of origin or iconography, they all stand as enemies to success.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers imbue one of the best rivalries in sports. They’re the two franchises with the most NBA titles, combining to win 45 percent of all championships. Their sustained greatness put them on a crash course mapped for one another, meeting in the Finals 12 times. Just the mention of their names evoke images of Bill Russell clashing with Wilt Chamberlain or Larry Bird and Magic Johnson duking it out.
While their shared rich histories are engrained in the DNA of the league, they’re diametrically opposed geographically, stylistically and garishly. They’re tailormade foes.
Though neither team’s current arch nemesis is the other, their mutual antagonist stems from the same triumphant opulence.
Celtics and Lakers: Hubris
With both Boston and L.A., there’s a bravado that everything will work out because, well, everything always has. You’d have inflated confidence too if your preeminence spanned eight decades. But through varying degrees, the sailing hasn’t been totally smooth.
In recent years, the Celtics outsmarted every team then outsmarted themselves. Their masterful team-building was supposed to set them up as a juggernaut for the foreseeable future. But instead of ascending to the top of the Eastern Conference this season, their pieces didn’t quite fit and development of their high-pedigreed youngsters stalled out. They ultimately logjammed their talent pipeline and arrogantly overvalued their cache. Now they face more questions than answers and might not have the same war chest they once thought to exchange for a superstar.
For the Lakers, it’s more about the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Reverberations of the Showtime era still echo throughout Staples Center. The most recognizable faces in the game’s history donned purple and gold, while the most famous people in the world sat courtside.
But the Lakers are running through a dry spell, having not floated above .500 since the 2012-13 season. As they hitched onto the LeBron James train last summer, they just mortgaged their future to siphon the remaining greatness out of the King. Pairing James with Anthony Davis gives them the best 1-2 punch in the league, but if the injury gods smite either, there’s not much to fall back on (at least until another star joins them, of course).