Much like the OJ: Made in America Series, the new 30 for 30 documentary ‘Celtics/Lakers the Best of Enemies’ offers basketball fans not only a history of the National Basketball League, but a look into the history of race relations in America. Now, I was beyond excited to watch this documentary since the introduction of the rivalry in the “Bad Boys” doc and so far Part One has not disappointed. There were two parts in the first installment of this documentary that caught my attention.
The first little nugget of the film that caught my attention was the part chronicling the history of race relations in Boston during the 70s and the race relations in Los Angeles during the same time. The OJ Series did a great job of detailing just how bad race relations were in LA, but the Celtics/Lakers doc showed just how biased race relations were in LA. Elgin Baylor was treated like royalty because he was rice and talented, whereas Bill Russel in Boston was treated like the plaque in Boston.
The film discusses how attendance in Boston had fallen while Bill Russell was playing for the team and risen when the team’s stars were two white players. Russell even remarked in the film that the biggest Celtics fans were the guys sitting on the bench and it’s an interesting look into race relations because previously the only places discussed in the race relations history were towns in the south. Yet it was clear that racism was alive and well in Boston during the 70s. I mean it was so bad that when Russell had his number retired, he had a private ceremony with his fellow teammates instead of in front of the fans that didn’t even like him.
The other part of the film that caught my attention was the discussion about the struggles of the National Basketball League, most importantly how the games were on a tape delay. Even the Finals games were shown on a tape delay, meaning that guys could play in the game and then go home and watch themselves play in the game. Could you imagine Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and the Warriors being on a tape delay today? Thankfully due to those that played in the league during the era when the NBA wasn’t one of the big leagues, the game has grown and taken it’s rightful foothold in the television market.
So now that’s we’ve gotten the start of the foundation of this rivalry, stay tuned for parts two and three of this documentary and here’s hoping that they manage to catch my attention much like the first installment had.