Top sports rivalries: Yankees-Red Sox and Celtics-Lakers
By the time this article comes out in the Justice, the New York Jets and New York Giants will have played their football game for “bragging rights” in the New York area. Despite both of their dismal records, this is a meaningful rivalry for devoted fans of each team. For sports fans, it is fun to ponder what are the greatest rivalries in professional sports. According to thetoptens.com, the top four rivalries comprise Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, Bears-Packers and Canadiens-Maple Leafs.
This historic baseball rivalry is chronicled in soxandpinstripes.com. The start of the rivalry began with the 1919 sale of the rights to Babe Ruth, who is widely considered the greatest baseball player in history, from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000. To understand the stature of Ruth as a player, it is helpful to realize that this sum of money would be worth $1.9 million today, per the USDinflation website. This sale led to the “Curse of the Bambino.” The Yankees had the better of the rivalry throughout the 20th century, including a huge comeback in the standings as the Yankees tied the Red Sox to force a one-game playoff for the division title, won in 1978 by the Yankees on a late home run by Bucky Dent. In 2003, current Yankee Manager Aaron Boone hit a walk-off home run to lead the Yankees to a game seven victory over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, and the “Curse” was alive and well. Between the sale of Ruth’s rights and 2004, the Red Sox reached the World Series four times, losing each time, while the Yankees won 26 World Series titles. However, things changed dramatically in 2004 when the Red Sox accomplished the greatest comeback in professional sports history, culminating in victory in the ALCS, according to an MLB postseason article. Trailing three games to none and facing elimination in a best of seven series, trailing 4–3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, facing the best closer in baseball, Mariano Rivera, the Red Sox managed to tie the score and later win in extra innings. The Red Sox then win three straight games to won the ALCS and went on to win the 2004 World Series and finally break the “Curse.” Since 2004, the Red Sox have won the World Series three times and the Yankees have won only once.
EJ Lambert documents this great basketball rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers in a How They Play article. The rivalry originated when the Celtics, led by point guard Bob Cousey, shocked the then Minneapolis Lakers, sweeping the championship series in 1959, just before the Lakers moved to Los Angeles. In the 1960s, the Celtics were beyond dominant, winning the NBA championship every year in the decade except 1967. The Lakers could not seem to topple the Celtics, losing to the Celtics in the championship series six times in the 1960s, including three series that went to seven games, making the losses even more bitter. The Lakers were highly talented with Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, while the Celtics had the legendary center, Bill Russell.
The rivalry heated up again after the acquisition of Irvin (Magic) Johnson by the Lakers and Larry Bird by the Celtics in the late 1970s. The two players had already established a personal rivalry in college, facing each other in the national title game. The Celtic and Lakers were the dominant teams of the 1980s, with the Celtics appearing in five championship finals to the Lakers’ seven. The Celtics won three championship titles during this time, compared to the Lakers’ five. In head-to-head championship appearances, the Lakers won two of three over the Celtics. The rivalry was renewed in the new millennium with the Celtics, led by star center Kevin Garnett, and the Lakers, led by star guard Kobe Bryant, splitting championship series in 2008 and 2010.
These rivalries between perennially great teams have fueled interest in both die-hard fans of the teams and enthusiasts of the sports in general. Watch for a review of the great Packers-Bears football and Canadiens-Maple Leafs hockey rivalries in next week’s issue.