First off, about fuckin’ time ESPN. This was probably one of the most obvious 30 For 30 topics in sports history and it took them this long to make it. I hope they were trying to perfect the three part, two night special and that is why it took so long. But here are my thoughts and comments:
The writers of 30 For 30s really know how to plug it full of emotion and tension. I truly felt like I was a part of the rivalry living through the 1960s and 70s and then 80s. I really wanted to hate the Lakers, and by the end, I did. And when the Celtics lost, I was pissed. Obviously I did not live through the high point of the rivalry, but this 30 For 30 did well to make me feel like I was living or reliving it.
The cameos from Ice Cube and Donnie Wahlberg were nice. Obviously, Ice Cube was much, much better. His voice and the way he talked was so perfect for an LA guy in the 1980s. Donnie was ok. I would rather that Ben Affleck or Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg narrate the Celtics side.
The beginning of the first part was really good. The descriptions of the history of both the Celtics and Lakers franchises was interesting. The Celtics-Lakers rivalry was one sided show with the Celtics going 7-0 against the Lakers in the NBA Finals between 1959-1969. This was good to explain the real hatred that the Laker players would have for the Celtics. Going winless in the Finals against one team is heartbreaking. It definitely setup the 80s Bird vs Magic part well.
The Bird vs Magic rivalry was incredible. I thought they did a good job of telling the tale and capturing the essence of the rivalry. The Len Bias scenes were a killer for a Celtics fan. The Bill Walton part was hilarious. Him saying sorry to the team for a poor performance in his first game with the team while stuttering was gold. There was a quote when they were talking about the NBA becoming popular during the 80s. It went something along the lines of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry actually saved basketball in the US and brought basketball to the forefront of entertainment and the sports world. For the entire 1980s decade, either the Celtics or Lakers or both were competing in every single NBA Finals. The complete dominance by both of these teams during that time and during the rivalry is awesome.
I wish they elaborated more on the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals when the Celtics and Lakers respectively won in those years. I know that the rivalry was long dead by the 2000s, but they still could have mentioned it more than a few pictures in 10 seconds. It would have been nice to see Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant talk about the rivalry and how their whole careers were battling one another finally culminating in two Finals.
Like most 30 For 30s, a huge point in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry was about race. Now I’m sure for the time period race was a big part in the lives of all. But I don’t think they needed to reiterate the race thing every couple of minutes. After Red drafting Bill Russell and incorporating black players into the association more, it should have been over. Of course, the racial undertone was brought up throughout the entire show.
Overall it was a top 30 For 30. The whole thing being three parts and about five hours long is great. If you love basketball or the Celtics and Lakers or Boston and LA, you must watch this special.