Bryon Scott described his experience playing at a time when the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers was at its peak.
The NBA has since softened its product, curtailing the on-court violence near second nature to players back in the 1980s, when professional basketball in the United States could get as violent as an MMA fight.
While the league throws up a melee from time to time, it’s nothing like what was the norm back in the day.
The Lakers and Celtics have had many tense battles over the years and last faced each other in the 2010 Finals, with the late great Kobe Bryant leading Los Angeles to victory in seven games. But, even then, the rivalry between the teams had already died down in terms of physicality and personal relationships between players.
Back in Scott’s day, you would not see Lakers and Celtics players shaking hands after a game. Instead, the teams used to circle dates on the calendar to serve as a reminder for when the others came to town. It’s still pretty exciting when these teams play each other today, and, if you’re a Boston fan, you can support the Celtics through sites provided by BetMassachusets.
Scott, who won three titles with the Lakers, was selected as the fourth overall pick of the 1983 NBA Draft by the San Diego Clippers before being traded to L.A. in exchange for Norm Nickson. He was named to the All-Rookie Team after averaging 10.6 points per game in his first season.
He went to the finals in his rookie campaign and was dumped right into the mix as the rivalry between the Los Angeles, and Beantown outfits had begun blazing again as Magic Johnson and Larry Birds were becoming the best players in the NBA.
The teams had met in the finals on six occasions in the 1960s, and Boston would win all six times. When they met again in 1984, the Celtics came out on top in seven games. The Lakers had a 2-1 lead heading into Game 4, but things turned around in the third quarter of that game, with Kevin McHale leaving an infamous clothesline on Kurt Rambis as he went for a layup have put the Lakers up by eight points.
Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a mini scuffle of their own right after. James Worthy avenged the Lakers in Game 6 by taking Cedric Maxwell out. Los Angeles bowed out in seven games, seven hard-fought games. The Lakers would get the better of Boston in 1985 and won another title two seasons later.
On his Off the Dribble podcast, Scott described the animosity between the two teams as genuine and not something you see in the league today.
“The one thing everybody has to understand is it was a true rivalry,” the former player and coach insisted (H/T Sportscasting.com). “It’s not like today. You don’t have the true rivalries in the NBA as you did back in those days. We didn’t play ball with those guys in the summer. We didn’t play high school ball with them, and we didn’t play AAU ball with those guys. Those guys hated us. We hated them.
“The rivalry was real. It was legit. We couldn’t stand each other. We tried to beat them up. They tried to beat us up. In the midst of all that, we were trying to win a series.”
McHale’s clothesline on Rambis in that Game 4 in 1987 is still remembered today, fondly or distastefully depending on who’s recalling it. McHale, for one, seems to remember it fondly and says he only regrets it was not someone like Magic or Kareem.
The Celtics had become tired of the Lakers scoring on fast-break layups and, following a blowout in Game 3, and an angry speech from Bird, Boston agreed that they wouldn’t give the Lakers any more easy layups.
“Yeah, we had the practice,” McHale said back in March. “K.C. kept on saying I’m tired of layups. It just kept going over and over again. Of course, they started off the game doing what they always do, running up and down.
“My only regret, honestly, is that it wasn’t (James) Worthy or Magic (Johnson) or someone better. It just happened to be Kurt Rambis. I was just like, no layups. Whatever happens, there’s not going to be a layup.
“Normally, you and I, Max, we were pretty good defenders. We made plays on the ball a lot. We’d try to slap it or challenge it up top or get our body in the way. I wasn’t making a play on the ball. I was like, screw it.”