Lakers and Celtics should play every Christmas

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The biggest rivals in the NBA are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The history of the league’s top two heavyweights dates back to their first championship matchup in 1959 when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis.

The teams have a combined 35 titles and have met in the NBA Finals a record 12 times. From Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, the rivalry has become an NBA tradition.

LeBron James and Jayson Tatum are the new names that headline the feud. All is right in the NBA when these two teams are the topic of conversation, and no day is bigger for basketball than December 25.

With all the history between the franchises, it is surprising that this year marked only their third time playing each other on Christmas. It is often said that the NBA season officially starts on Christmas day, and what better way to showcase the league than a battle between two historic organizations?

“I think it is great energy. It is a great sign to get to play on Christmas day. I think the guys will come in pumped because we are playing the Celtics. That is sort of self-explanatory,” said Darvin Ham. “I don’t have to give a big in-depth motivational speech. They are who they are, and like I said before, it is a great rivalry.”

The league would be wise to make this an annual ritual. With the NFL scheduling games on Christmas this year, the NBA will undoubtedly lose some viewership. Showcasing the best matchup basketball has to offer is a smart tactical move in an attempt to retain some of the eyes on their product.

The Celtics defeated the Lakers, 126-115. Lakers forward Anthony Davis scored 40 points against Boston, but the Celtics jumped out to a 12-0 lead early and held on for the win. The Lakers have now lost five of their last six games.

“We came back a little lethargic,” Ham said. “You know, just coming back from a long trip, and then the whole Christmas circumstances of the holiday, whatever. Early game. It took us a little bit of time to get going, but we had some great looks early. A couple of bad turnovers…but for the most part, I mean, if you look at the shots we got, theirs went in and ours didn’t. But we had some really terrific looks at the rim.”

Every starter for Boston scored at least 18 points and combined for 29 assists. The high point man for Boston was Kristaps Porzingis, who led the Celtics with 28 points. Tatum dropped in 25 points for the Celtics.

“We jumped out on them early, and they are a really great team with great players. We knew that they were gonna respond, and it’s just a big win,” said Tatum in a postgame press conference. “It is Christmas day, and it is tough to win on the road.”

Los Angeles is 2-1 against Boston on Christmas. The first matchup featured two Laker legends, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. The second clash occurred during the apex of the 2000s rivalry in 2008.

The Celtics were the reigning champions, and the Lakers went on to win the title that season. The late great Kobe Bryant dropped 27 points in the Los Angeles victory.

Even on years that the Lakers and Celtics are not some of the top teams in the league, which is rare, the history itself makes this a premier game.

This year, it is arguably the best regular season game on the schedule. It is a shame that the NBA has not already recognized that they should play on this date every year, or maybe they have.

Lead photo caption: Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) attempts to dunk the ball past Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

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