Super Bowl 2019 re-ignites LA-Boston sports rivalry

Digital Originals

Photo illustration by Lisa Chiu with work from Julian Howard on Unsplash and from Liz West on Flickr.

They say that opposites attract, and that’s certainly the case in the 2019 Super Bowl matchup where the LA Rams and the New England Patriots will go helmet to helmet at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3, 2019.

The two cities couldn’t be more different.

It’s East Coast vs. West Coast. The Atlantic vs. the Pacific. Hollywood vs. the Tea Party.

Engraving of the Boston Tea Party in “The History of North America,” London: E. Newberry, 1789.

Nearly 3,000 miles separate Los Angeles, California and Boston, Massachusetts — but that hasn’t stopped the cities from facing off in sports throughout the last 60 years.

In the 1960s, the LA-Boston rivalry was on the basketball court, not the football field.

Crowds lined up to watch Wilt Chamberlain of the Celtics and Bill Russell of the Lakers — both legends of the basketball world — play their very best ball as they challenged each other on the court.

“What I know is that from the very first time I ever stepped onto a court and had to play against Wilt, I knew that nothing less than my very best would ever be enough,” Russell said in an interview in 2012.

Between 1962-1969, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers competed in six NBA finals — with the Celtics winning all of them.

The rivalry echoed in the 1980s when the two teams again faced off at the NBA finals three times, with the Lakers winning two of them and the Celtics one.

The entire decade was dominated by the Lakers starring Magic Johnson, and the Celtics, led by Larry Bird. In the nine NBA finals between 1980-1988, the Celtics won three titles, while the Lakers won five.

The Johnson-Bird rivalry also faced similar comparisons to Chamberlain-Russell.

In a 2009 interview with NPR, Johnson said of Bird: “We’re so competitive anyway that there was a dislike there… I even hated him more because I knew he could beat me.”

Meanwhile Bird said: “We did it in a way where we caught the imagination of everyone in America… People wanted to see us play against one another. … If you like competition you want to play against the best, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Fast forward 30 years, and the two coasts faced off again in the 2018 World Series when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Before the series began, Dodgers designated hitter Matt Kemp told ESPN that that he was excited for the rivalry.

“The Celtics and the Lakers, of course they’re going to tie that into baseball,” said Kemp to ESPN. “It is what it is. Boston is passionate about their sports, and L.A. is really passionate about their sports. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be loud. It’s going be interesting. Two great teams. I can’t wait.”

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy celebrates after his walk off home run against the Boston Red Sox during the 18th inning in Game 3 of the World Series baseball game on Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

And now, the New England Patriots will play against Los Angeles’ newest team, the Rams.

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote: “The Patriots are everything Lakers fans see in the Celtics. The perception of arrogance, of always winning. How is Deflategate a lot different than the Boston Garden turning up the heat in the dressing room? This is the perfect opportunity for the Rams.”

And New England Cable News recently tweeted that “Beat LA” will be a rallying cry at the Super Bowl.

Let the rivalry continue.