“Beat L.A.!” “Boston Sucks!” I can still hear these chants in my sleep!
I can still picture it all: the site of the Boston Harbor driving into Copley Square, just a few blocks from the old Boston Garden, a rat hole of a gym.
Trust me, there was nothing about the old Boston Garden that made you feel like you were playing in an arena. No heat in the winter. No air condition during those humid, hot-as-hell playoffs in June. Dead spots in the floor where the ball lost velocity on the bounce. Columns that obstructed view. Their loud obnoxious fans. Damn, I hated that place!
They had the banners and had dominated the Lakers during the 60s, so quite naturally, with Bird in Boston and Magic in L.A. and a new commissioner with a big TV contract, the rivalry was reborn in the 80s (and continues to be one of the biggest rivalries in sports today). And we knew we were representing all those who had lost to the greenies in the 60s: Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Chick Hearn, etc.
I remember one story that really captures just how bad things got in the old Garden. After losing the championship to the Celtics in 1984 (which to this day, due to mistakes, we feel we let slip away), I was exiting the floor and got punched in the face by a fan.
In the old Garden, both teams entered and exited the floor through the same little corridor/tunnel, right beneath the fans. In 1984, as fans flooded the floor, all players made mad dashes to the exit tunnel. Larry Bird was getting mobbed and was punching and elbowing his own fans to get to safety. I was almost there, just a few steps from safety, when a fan reached down and sucker punched me hard. There was nothing I could do. To this day, I still get a little pissed about it, which has increased a certain type of disgust for the team in green.
If you happen to see any video of the 1984 mob, you'll see Bird in complete chaos. And if you look at video form 1985 (when we came back to Boston and beat them to win the Lakers first title ever over Celtics), at the half court line with time still on the clock, your boy here is getting the hell out of dodge pronto, and into the locker room, pouring champagne. And yes, "it felt good!”
We eventually got our revenge, winning two out three championships against the Leprechauns in the 80s, and since then, the Lakers have won one against the Boston Scrods. We are one behind, 17 to 16 overall in banners, and I think we will tie them before they win another. Until then, I'll settle for a victory on Thursday in Boston.
A few tips for the current Lakers:
- Don't answer your phone in the hotel unless you enjoy being harshly heckled by some obnoxious Celtic fan.
- Don't eat the room service clam chowder.
- And whatever you do, exit the floor with caution!
Take it from Big Game, there's a sucker puncher in Boston!!
Big Game James Worthy is an NCAA champ, 3-time NBA champ and an MVP with the Los Angeles Lakers, a hall of famer, philanthropist and an Analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet. For more information or to contact Big Game for an appearance visit www.jamesworthy42.com/contact.
You can follow him on Twitter @James_Worthy42 or on Facebook at Facebook.com/JamesWorthy42.