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Threat of a Boston NBA title brings out the pettiness in Lakers and Celtics fans

Celtics fans celebrate a playoff win as Kobe Bryant puts his head in a towel
Celtics fans celebrate a playoff win as Kobe Bryant sits on the bench and puts his head in a towel in Boston on June 8, 2008.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Driven by deep-seated disdain, Darrian Woods — the self-proclaimed pettiest Lakers fan, as his X.com handle suggests — can’t bear the thought of another Boston championship banner raised in TD Garden.

“Having won more championships is the only thing they’ve ever had because otherwise, there’s no debate on the greatest franchise in basketball history,” said Woods, 33. “It’s the Lakers.”

The Celtics are threatening to pull ahead in the all-time NBA championships tally.

The Lakers trailed the Celtics in titles since the Kennedy administration. It took 47 years to catch up to their hated rivals at 17 championships apiece.

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Darrian Woods shows off the Lakers championship rings
Darrian Woods, who is known on social media as the pettiest Lakers fan, shows off the Lakers championship rings he was allowed to hold for a photo.
(Darrian Woods)

For the second year in a row, the Boston Celtics entered the season as the favorites to win an NBA title. Now, they face the Dallas Mavericks in their second finals appearance in as many years.

Lakers fans are pulling for the underdog Mavs, while Celtics fans in the Los Angeles area are eagerly awaiting the chance to celebrate.

Woods said he loathes Celtics fans’ “arrogance and disillusionment,” admonishing them for believing Boston is the greatest franchise in NBA history. He despises Boston for its past treatment of Black athletes and for “being on the wrong side of the Civil Rights Movement.” And although he respects the players, he truly cannot stand Paul Pierce.

“I’m their biggest hater because I feel they’re everything wrong with basketball,” Woods said. “I’m always going to root for their demise and failure.”

‘The Jays’ possess similar skill sets and are key to the success of a Celtics team reaching the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.

June 5, 2024

Fans arrived at Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub in Santa Monica ahead of the Celtics’ Game 1 win on Thursday, flocking to a haven for Bostonian transplants in a city of purple and gold, where Kristaps Porzi??is is a god and “Kyrie sucks” chants fill the air.

“We always beat them in the playoffs,” said Celtics fan Luis Rivera, 44. “It’s definitely big brother, little brother.”

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Boston leads the all-time playoff series between the two teams 43-31. Many fans at the pub believed the 2020 championship clinched in a bubble during a season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic is invalid. Rivera calls it “half a championship.”

Rivera’s family moved from Puerto Rico to Boston when he was 6, and he became a Celtics fan during the 1986 championship season.

Rivera, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, watched the pregame show on his phone at the pub while sitting in his wheelchair covered in Celtics gear.

He has found the last month invigorating, reveling in the Lakers’ early postseason exit and the Celtics’ success.

“I love it. I love it. I love it,” Rivera said.

Sam Hendricks, donning his green Bill Russell jersey, remembers the pivotal moment in his Celtics fandom. “May 1985, when the Celtics smoked the Lakers,” said Hendricks, a 48-year-old Westborough, Mass., native.

Two Celtics fans sit at a table in Sonny McLean's Irish Pub in Santa Monica
Celtics fans Sam Hendrick, left, and Mike Greenfield sit at a table in Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub, a Santa Monica bar that caters to Boston sports fans, before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
(Anthony De Leon / Los Angeles Times)
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Hendricks said he roots for the Lakers to reach the NBA Finals every year with the hope he can watch the Celtics beat them.

“I never hated them, it’s a phenomenal rivalry,” Hendricks said. “When I watched Magic and Larry as a kid, that was the best basketball you could ever see.”

He does not care for Lakers supporters, calling them fair-weather fans.

Hendricks, a bubble championship denier who also believes the five championships the Lakers won in Minneapolis are “fake,” is still adamant about the Celtics winning this series to settle all arguments about the better franchise.

Woods, still haunted by Boston’s Big 3 — Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Pierce — beating the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, feels another Celtics win would be an unspeakable punishment from the basketball gods. The forecast does not look good, with the Celtics taking a 2-0 NBA Finals lead on Sunday.

The Lakers are prepared to offer their head coaching job to Dan Hurley, who has won consecutive NCAA titles at UConn.

June 6, 2024

“Let’s not speak horrors of an 18th Celtics championship into existence,” Woods said. “It will be a sad day in the United States of America if they win.”

With pride on the line, it begs the question: What would Lakers and Celtics fans trade to see their team succeed?

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Woods, who has amassed more than 38,000 followers on social media platform X, would surrender his followers, podcast and the chance to join NBA banter on X just to relish another Celtics NBA Finals loss and Boston’s failure to pass the Lakers in championships.

Hendricks would take a Celtics championship in 2024 even if that meant the Lakers won the next three championships.

Rivera, who was present for Game 5 of the 2008 Finals, said that if the Celtics hoist this year’s Larry O’Brien trophy, he would never attend another Celtics game.

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