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It's Lakers vs. Celtics and L.A.'s laid-back fans are as excited as they ever get

It's Lakers vs. Celtics and L.A.'s laid-back fans are as excited as they ever get

It's almost summer in Southern California and the car antennas are in full bloom with purple and gold.
That can mean but one thing: The Los Angeles Lakers are in the hunt for a NBA title.
Lakers fans may appear to be a laid-back bunch for much of the year, but that changes when the team lands in the NBA finals _ especially against the Boston Celtics. Lakers pennants go up on car antennas from the streets of Beverly Hills to the barrios of East L.A., and names like Magic and Bird and Wilt and Russell return to the public lexicon.
"Everywhere I go with my Lakers pennant on my car, people honk at me. And they smile," said Eddie Shanteri of Los Angeles.
The difference is they're smiling.
In Boston, it seems, nobody smiled when Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke suggested Paul Pierce faked his knee injury in Game 1 to fire up his team. They sent Plaschke e-mails saying they hoped he'd die of cancer and threatening to desecrate the graves of his relatives.
But there's a reason for that kind of rabid fandom, the guy who threatened Plaschke's family grave, later told him.
"There's not much else to do around here ... either it's too cold or too hot," said Boston baker John Marsinelli.
Almost every spring, while much of the U.S. is digging out of its last snowstorm, Angelenos dust off their Lakers' pennants.
They probably had to dig deeper this year, having stowed them away after their team ended its three-title run in 2002 and then, after losing to Detroit in the finals the next year, traded away Shaquille O'Neal and immediately became a less than ordinary team.
"They were so bad at times they could make you cry," said Shanteri, 21, as he held hands with his wife, Anna.
Older Lakers fans could tell him he didn't know the half of it.
Game 7 was tied in 1962 when Frank Selvy of the Lakers took the last shot in regulation. The ball seemed to bounce into the hoop _ and then back out _ and the Celtics won in overtime.
"I've always wondered if Frank Selvy had made that shot ... would that have helped change the course of history of this thing?" Jerry West, the Lakers' beloved Mr. Clutch, once asked.
Instead, the Lakers went on to lose seven more NBA finals to the Celtics before winning their last two meetings, in 1985 and 1987.
"That was the greatest NBA finals for me. Remembering Kareem Abdul-Jabbar popping in sky hooks in Boston in Game 6, beating the Celtics," recalled longtime fan and freelance writer Scott Paul.
Now, both teams are back for their 11th finals and Lakers fans are putting more than their hearts on the line.
On Monday, ticket brokers were asking as much as $56,000 (euro35,500) apiece for courtside seats to Sunday's possible Game 5 at the Staples Center. By contrast, said Don Vaccaro, who runs TicketNetwork.com, comparable tickets to the Boston home games were going for only $8,000 to $10,000 (euro5,000 to euro6,400).
"The Celtics are still building back their fan base" after many disappointing years, he said.
The Lakers' fan base, on the other hand, never left. Even if it doesn't get quite as worked up.
"My brother went to school in Boston and I remember his college roommate telling me when the Lakers beat the Celtics in '85, she was so upset she threw up," Paul recalled on Monday. "I wouldn't throw up."


Updated : 2021-05-17 18:15 GMT+08:00