MANILA, Philippines – The basketball world was shook to its core after Ohio’s favorite son LeBron James agreed to a 4-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a blink of an eye, the rebuilding franchise got a massive shot in the arm and is now poised to bully its way into the uber-crowded playoff picture in the loaded Western Conference. Aside from this, James’ move stoked the dying fire of the Lakers’ historic rivalries with other storied franchises.
Let’s take a look at some of them and see how James will factor in.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way.
In NBA history, there have been 70 NBA champion franchises. The Boston Celtics (17) and the Lakers (16) own more than half of those Larry O’Brien trophies. The next franchises with the most titles other than these two are the Chicago Bulls (6) and the Golden State Warriors (6), which we will get to in a moment.
In recent years, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry has been fairly one-sided in favor of the men in green. However, LeBron’s inclusion to the purple and gold changes all that, which is now even more interesting since the Celtics are led by this man:
Kyrie Irving developed the idea for Uncle Drew after watching an “old man” tear up a skate park.— Cycle (@bycycle) June 30, 2018
It went from viral sensation to actual movie. pic.twitter.com/kb9u8VUd0F
Kyrie Irving, the man who wanted to get out of LeBron James’ shadow and lead his own team, got traded to the Celtics. A year later, James himself is a Laker.
No one could’ve written it any better.
And contrary to popular belief, the mutual respect between the two former teammates is alive and well.
The recent addition of former Celtic All-Star Rajon Rondo to the Lakers just adds another dimension to the bad blood, as if they needed more reasons to go for one another’s throats.
The teams are set. The fans are more than ready. Only the schedule remains to be seen.
Golden State Warriors
One could assume that James is sick and tired of the Warriors after his Cleveland Cavaliers lost a clean 0-4 sweep in the NBA Finals.
But not only did “King” James move to the same conference as the Warriors, he moved to the same division.
This means that next season, fans will, at the very least, see a grand total of 4 Pacific Division matchups between LeBron and the two-time reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant. That’s not counting the possibility that the Lakers enter the West playoffs with the Warriors, who are of course, an automatic inclusion at this point even before the shocking addition of big “Boogie” DeMarcus Cousins.
We may just see a high-stakes state rivalry not seen since the heyday of the 2002 Lakers and Sacramento Kings. Let’s just hope the games are called down the middle this time around.
For those who are not familiar, here is why a California rivalry is something to look out for.
New York Knicks
You just can’t go wrong with Hollywood messing around the Big Apple.
In a basketball sense, a rivalry between today’s Lakers and the New York Knicks is not really a competitive one. The Knicks’ “unicorn” superstar Kristaps Porzingis remains sidelined for at least 10 months after tearing his left ACL midway through last season. Tim Hardaway, Jr. is still developing and trying to live up to his $71 million contract while it’s still unclear if New York is keen on re-signing combo guard Trey Burke.
But ratings and revenue-wise, a renewed LA vs New York rivalry is simply unparalleled. From attracting celebrities in live attendance to generating overall media attention, LeBron’s inclusion to the Lakeshow will just churn those TV dollars up into overdrive.
Remember the worldwide media exploding on Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity” in 2012 against Kobe Bryant’s Lakers? That’s a glimpse of what this rivalry at full force feels like.