Five reasons to watch the NBA Finals

Series
The NBA Finals gets under way Thursday night as the Boston Celtics take on the Los Angeles Lakers. Just say "Celtics vs. Lakers'' makes it must-see TV. Here are five reasons you should watch the NBA Finals, which can be seen on ABC (locally Ch. 28):

Bird The rivalry
Lakers-Celtics just might be the best rivalry in sports. Unlike, say, Red Sox-Yankees, Ohio State-Michigan football or Duke-North Carolina basketball, it seems like everyone watching Boston-Los Angeles, not just their fans, has a rooting interest. Even if you like another team, you still prefer either the Lakers or the Celtics when they play each other. It goes back to the 1960s when Jerry West and Elgin Baylor dueled Bill Russell. It goes back to the 1980s when you were either a fan of Larry Bird or of Magic Johnson. Plus, when these teams meet, it seems like a championship is always on the line. They have combined for 32 championships.

Kobe Kobe Bryant
He's the best player in the game. LeBron James won the MVP award the past two seasons, but seriously, if you had one game to win, who would you rather have leading your team other than Bryant? And if you had one possession where you absolutely needed a bucket, do you want the ball in anyone else's hands but Kobe’s? He's the best player on the planet, and he's still in his prime with his 32nd birthday coming up in August. We're watching Babe Ruth, people. We're watching Jim Brown. Think about that when you see him driving another stake through an opposing team's heart with an offbalance, 25-foot, hands-in-his-face fadeaway as time expires.

Phil It's history
Everywhere you turn, somebody in this series has put up some kind of amazing NBA championship number. This is the 12th time these teams have met in the Finals and the 11th since the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960. The Celtics have won a record 17 titles. The Lakers franchise has won 15 (10 in L.A.). The Lakers' Phil Jackson has won an NBA record 10 championships as a coach. Kobe Bryant is going for a fifth title, which would put him ahead of Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan, and -- chew on this -- just one behind Michael Jordan.

Boston Celtics immortality
If Boston can beat Los Angeles, we might have to include this Celtics team on the list of all-time greats. A Boston win would be its second title in three years. Okay, so that hardly makes this team special. But let's dig deeper. This team features probable Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, who came together three seasons ago. Had they played together for the past dozen years, they might have filled up one of their hands with championship rings and we’d be comparing them to the Bird-McHale-Parish teams. It's not often you can watch three probable Hall of Famers play together.

It's the best thing on TV
Lost and American Idol are over. The Stanley Cup final between the Blackhawks and Flyers is halfway to a Chicago sweep. The Rays have become increasingly frustrating to watch because they can't hit. Soccer's World Cup doesn’t start for another week and a half. (Plus, it's soccer!) And the NBA Finals figures to be a close series, probably six or seven highly competitive games. And there’s this: It’s Celtics-Lakers … for the NBA championship. Why wouldn't you watch?

[Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 4:17pm]

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