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Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Updated: June 12, 3:56 PM ET
In search of Celtics hate in L.A.

By Sam Alipour
Special to Page 2

LOS ANGELES -- I've just been doused with beer and then, for good measure, popcorn, and I think this is what hate feels like.

Like most Lakers fans at Staples Center to watch Game 2 from Boston on the JumboTron, I was minding my own business, watching my team fall behind in the final period, when all hell broke loose. Maybe two dozen people, most of them staggering drunk, a few of them in high heels, are trampling each other in the lower bowl behind one of the goalposts. People are sprinting up and down stairs slick with drink or vomit, leaping entire rows in a single bound to either escape or throw haymakers at several Celtics fans who thought it'd be funny to wear matching Paul Pierce jerseys to a Lakers party.

I know one of the goons in green who is getting his face smashed in. I interviewed him earlier, and as his buddy pointed out, "He's not even a Celtics fan. He's just wearing the jersey to act a fool."

Family
Do you see any Celtic haters in this crowd?

"I've never seen anything like this," says one usher before offering an explanation. "I'm guessing the fans are angry because the Lakers are getting blown out."

No doubt, this toxic mix of booze and faltering hoop dreams aren't helping matters. But I'm guessing that this fan-on-fan ugliness has its roots in a different time, before the only thing we hated in L.A. were terrorists, the 101 and 110 freeways and Britney Spears -- for refusing to stop ramming into us on the 101 and 110 freeways.

I'm thinking this as a trampled man grabs my leg. I help him to his feet, partially because I just stepped on his back and partially because he's wearing a KB24 jersey.

And that's when I wonder, would I help a Celtics fan to his feet?

I'd like to think I would, but my hesitation is proof that there's hope, yet, that this once-heated rivalry is back. I hope so. I want to believe the Celtics tampered with the Garden's baskets, causing Kobe's jumpers to rattle out. I want to discover new reasons to hate the goons in green. That's why I canvassed L.A. -- to identify the Celtics haters and have them explain their feelings. It's time for a history lesson brought to life. Also, it's time to duck and run. (Someone just pelted me with a roll of toilet paper.)


The Celtics-hating thespians
My exploration of hate began during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, back when both the Lakers and Celtics were one win from renewing their hoops (and cultural) rivalry: Grit versus Glam; The Working Man versus Jack; Sam Adams (actually brewed in Cincinnati) versus vodka&Red Bull (brewed in hell); Dane Cook (yup, he's all yours, Boston!) versus, well, anyone. Surely, our moneyed, longtime courtside fans know the battle lines have been drawn.

"I don't hate the Celtics," said Andy Garcia, shrugging as if the thought had never occurred to him. "That was a long time ago." Seems Denzel Washington hates something, but I think that something is me because when I broached the topic, he shooed me away like a malaria-carrying mosquito. But I did find two loyal fans who know their history and must be heard.

George Lopez
Dyan Cannon and George Lopez are two celebs who hate the Celtics going way back.

Who: Dyan Cannon, actress.
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Five. But if we play them, it's a 20."
Why: "They get all the breaks. I had the same seats back at the Forum, and I watched as Larry Bird stepped out of bounds. It was a crucial play, as are all possessions when you're playing the Celtics, and Joey [Crawford] didn't make the call. I said, 'Joey, that's the worst call I've ever seen!' And he said, 'Dyan, I've seen your movies, and they're not all good either.'"
Least favorite Celtic: "Danny Ainge was a bit of a crier. But they were all so cool."
Advice for current Lakers: "Have fun. Let it all go. Because when you have joy, you relax. Showtime was all about fun."

Who: George Lopez, actor/comedian.
Lakers fan since: "Forever."
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Eleven. It's off the charts, man."
Why: "I hate the Celtics. I hate green. I hate their shorts. I hate their legs. I hate their mascot. I hate their waving of the towels. I hate Bird's thin porno mustache. I hate Danny Ainge. I saw Ainge in the market, and I hated him in the market. I don't go to that market anymore."
Current Celtic he'd most like to clothesline: "Ray Allen. Anybody with the name of a Realtor has to be on my s--- list."


Our badass musicians hate 'em, too ... sorta

Musicians tend to be more volatile -- and thus, more prone to hate -- than thespians and, surely, members of Red Hot Chili Peppers are no different. Right? "I was never really partial to Danny Ainge, who was an irritating man," explains Flea, from his courtside seat. "But I try not to advertise hate, just love for the Lakers." Glenn Frey of the Eagles, a band that famously quarreled over all sorts of stuff, said he suffers from "horrible flashbacks of McHale clotheslining Rambis," but he doesn't hate the Celtics, either. And though he once rapped about hating the police, Dr. Dre seems to be chilling in his old age. "I had a love/hate relationship with Larry Bird -- he was so good," he says. "But to be perfectly honest with you, I don't hate them."

If B-Real were any chiller, he'd be dead. But mention the Celtics to the Cypress Hill front man and the dude makes Dr. Dre look like a bouncing baby boy. "I respect the organization and all that," he says, "but they need to be put in the dirt." All right!

Who: Louis Freese, aka B-Real.
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "11-plus."
Why: "I remember those days -- the stuff we went through with Boston, the elbows and clotheslines -- like it was yesterday. Those were some dirty dudes, man. Ugly looking, too. I hated them with all my heart."
Celtic he'd most like to clothesline: "Danny Ainge. A very annoying character. They were all just annoying-type players."
Song from discography that best reflects his Celtics hate: "How I Could Just Kill a Man." (What, you were expecting "I Want to Get High"?)


Fresh Celtics hate

By Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Lakers fever -- and, to a lesser extent, Celtics hate -- had gripped the Southland. I begin my highly professional research at Parlor, an upscale sports bar on Wilshire near UCLA, where the just-out-of-college clientele might be too young to remember the days of short shorts and bloody Finals clashes. That much is clear when I spot an unholy smattering of friends in various Celtics jerseys dancing merrily like little gnomes. "I'm loving this," says Ramy Zaki, 26, a gleeful director of executive search who says he hasn't been harassed. "I'm surprised, to be honest with you. Lakers fans are a little soft, I guess."

Maybe at Parlor. But at South, another young professional-type sports bar down the street, Lakers fans were holding down the fort. Where there are polo shirts and booze, there is knowledge about modern history.

Who: William Arechiga, 26, an assistant at Fox.
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Eight."
Why: "In Boston, they wear 'Beat L.A.' shirts, but in L.A., it's just another trip to the Finals. We've been kicking their [butts] since '87. We've had a dynasty since then. They haven't done anything. They signed two free agents, and all of a sudden they're a dynasty? And now we have to watch Affleck and Damon?"
Worst thing he'd do to the Celtics if he knew he'd get away with it: "I'd trick them into taking the 110 to the arena so they'll miss the entire game."

Sam Alipour
Let us tell you, man, Daniel Derhy really hates the Celtics.

Who: Daniel Derhy, 21, finance/business major at Pepperdine.
Been a fan since: "I was 4 months old. I felt it in my soul even then."
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "A negative one." (Then, when informed that 10 is the highest: "Oh, then it's definitely a 10, man!")
Why: "I hate Garnett. I hate Allen, Pierce. … Like Gary Payton and [Karl] Malone, they're bandwagon jumpers, man. They don't deserve to win the title after one year. I $#*!@#! hate them, man! And quote that, man!"
Worst thing he'd do to the Celtics if he knew he'd get away with it: "Slash the team bus tires on game day. … Count me in, bud!" (Then Derhy made out with a blond girl.)


Venice: Old school meets new school

If the legendary Venice Beach basketball courts are any indication, the Lakers' loss in Game 1 -- and Paul Pierce's so-called "knee injury" -- had stirred Laker Nation, both newbies and longtimers. The contingent of old-school dudes clad in purple and gold and blaring classic Prince tunes on two boom boxes was abnormally large. Meanwhile, new fans hit up the boardwalk's stores for some discount Lakers gear. 'I just became a fan this season, but this rivalry thing has really inspired me,' said Jason Barrass, 20, who flashed one of those trendy little Lakers flags, which he'll soon fasten to his Audi. It seemed to impress his girlfriend, Azadeh Dadvand, which figures because she's been a Celtics fan "since Wally Szczerbiak. He was cute."

Byron Gilchrist
Umm, Byron, Bird wasn't just hype.

"It's crazy, I'm seeing fake Celtics fans everywhere now," said Tony Mingo, a 20-year-old baller. "Where were they last week, know what I mean?"

Who: Byron Gilchrist, 35, plumber.
Been a fan since: "The '80s."
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Ten."
Why: "I hated their so-called gritty style. It was dirty. That, combined with being damn good, meant I grew up with that hate in my heart."
Least favorite former Celtic: "I hated that 'Larry Bird is the Great White Hype' stuff. That really got on my nerves."
Least favorite current Celtic: "I don't like Ray Allen because of that Kobe trash he talked. I don't want to hear that."
Was Paul Pierce faking? "Absolutely. You don't get in a wheelchair and be up 3 minutes later. I've been in a wheelchair, and I was in it for 33 months."

Who: Richard Brown, 55, assistant at VA hospital.
Lakers fan since: 1969.
Celtics hate rating: "Only 10? What about 12?"
Richard Brown
Richard Brown's Celtic hate goes back to the days of Bill Russell.
Why: "They caused me a lot of pain. I remember when the Lakers had the champagne ready, but the Celtics ended up winning it in Bill Russell's last year, and it still hurts me like it was yesterday."
Former Celtic he'd most like to clothesline: "Bird is a great human being. But he beat us so many times, and he was a famous trash-talker. I just hated him."
Worst thing he'd do to the Celtics if he knew he'd get away with it: "I'd crank call their hotel rooms. And I'd mess with their room service, like put a lizard in their plate."

Who: Lee Wallace, 36, hip-hop dancer for bars and bah mitzvahs, former Venice Beach slam-dunk champ ('95-97).
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Twenty-five."
Why: "The old Celtics were dirty. And the new Celtics are just a bunch of hype." Also, "I hate Celtics fans, with their stupid chant."
Ugliest Celtics: "Bird didn't look right. And McHale, with those … arms. Straight alien."

Who: Officer Dowlat, 38, LAPD.
Celtics hate level (out of 10): "Seven."
Bird's ugliness rating: "Seven."
Police
Officer Dowlat, far right, insists the Celtics would be treaty fairly by the LAPD. Except maybe Paul Pierce.
Least favorite Celtic: "Bird, because of all that stuff he was saying."
Least favorite current Celtic: "Pierce. He was faking. That was just a bunch of drama."
Celtic he'd most like to arrest: "Whoever did the most heinous crime."
How fast over the speed limit Kobe would need to be driving to get a ticket: "Depends on how safe he was driving. But usually, 15 [mph]."
How fast over the speed limit Garnett would need to be driving to get a ticket: "Fifteen. We don't play favorites here."


The Celtics are not safe in the hood

On the eve of Game 2, and with Los Angeles in full boil, I head to Crenshaw because I'm guessing that even in this area infamous for Angeleno-on-Angeleno violence, there are purple-and-gold ties that bind us together. "[Rhymes with 'chuck'] the Celtics," said "Little Nix" Thompson from just outside a 7-Eleven along Rosecrans Avenue. "And as a matter of fact, [chuck] the Lakers, too." Thompson declined to elaborate, though he did offer unsolicited advice: "If I were you, little man, I'd drive my [rhymes with 'glass'] right back to Westwood."

Who: Richard Taylor, 28, hospital clerk.
Lakers fan since: "I go back to when I was a tiny man."
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Ten."
Why: "I hate Boston. I hate it. They think they're too good for everybody. All of them. I hate the Patriots, the Red Sox. And I really hate the Celtics."
Least favorite former Celtic: "I hated Bird. Him and those little baby shorts. He was ugly as hell. But he made those jump shots look so good."
Worst thing he'd do to the Celtics if he knew he'd get away with it: "I'd get one of their nice, fancy cars and bust the windows out. All of them. Even the headlights, know what I'm sayin'? And I'd talk a lot of mess about Pierce's mama. Hopefully he attacks me because then I'd sue."

William Holloway
William Holloway is still trying to figure out what went wrong in 1984.

Who: William Holloway, 52, private contractor and president of Real Riders Lowrider Classic Bike Club, "and still going strong, man."
Lakers fan since: "All the way back to West and Chamberlain."
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "One hundred would be accurate."
Why: "Because the Celtics won so many. Then they beat us in '84, and we had that series locked in. I still don't know what happened."
Ugliest Celtic: "Bird. He's so ugly, he's got that little gremlin-looking thing in 'Lord of the Rings' beat."
Former Celtic he'd most like to clothesline: "Cornbread Maxwell. And McHale. He had the ugliest shot. And it'd always go in."
Current Celtic he'd most like to clothesline: "Paul Pierce, the faker. We thought he was James Brown, like when he breaks down, then throws the robe off and comes back alive. It was staged."
Worst thing he'd do to the Celtics if he knew he'd get away with it: "I'd put stickum on each one of their shoes and let them figure it out."


Never too young to hate the C's
With the Lakers down 1-0, I head for Staples Center to catch the game on the JumboTron. No Johnny Square Pockets or Glamazons here, just the real fans, young and old, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and a ridiculous amount of cousins. The game is in Boston, but you wouldn't know it with the chanting ('"Paul Pierce sucks!"), always roaring crowd. Really, it's an awe-inspiring experience, so it's no wonder many moms and pops seize the moment to indoctrinate their young Lakers squires -- to varying degrees of success.

"I teach him what I can, but he's got a mind of his own," says "Crazy" Karen, 51, of her grandson, Devon, 7. "As a matter a fact, he likes Kevin Garnett. Something about him was cool, I guess. I didn't ask. Didn't want to hear too much about it."

Others had much better luck in passing along a rivalry by bloodline.

Who: Philip Randon, 32, wife Jose and their cousin Melinda Valenzuela with their family.
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "I hate them very, very bad," says Daniel Valenzuela, 11.
Least favorite Celtic: "Paul Pierce," says Isaiah Randon, 6. "He's a faker," Daniel says.
Gio, Rome, and Julian
The Riveras seem to need a little work on their Celtic hate.
If the Celtics team bus caught on fire, would you help put it out? "No," Isaiah says.
How to teach your kids to hate the Celtics: "Just trash talk, but keeping it clean," says Philip. "I'm a youth minister now, so I'm suppressing it."

Who: Dad Gio Rivera, sons Romeo, 11, and Julian, 7.
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): Says Romeo: "Maximum. I hate them a lot!' Says Julian: "Crazy!"
Why: Says Romeo: "Since I knew they'd be in competition with the Lakers." Says Julian: "Crazy!"
Least favorite Celtic: "Ray Allen," Romeo says. "Me too," Julian says.
How to teach your kids to hate the Celtics: "You start with Lakers baby blankets," dad Gio says. "But I don't really teach them to hate the Celtics. Hate is a harsh word. But I'm sure they realize it later on when they see Dad get crazy, and they know what they have to do."


Our girls hate your girls, sorta

The L.A.-Boston rivalry has spawned countless points of contention, but these two things cannot be disputed: Our girls are better than your girls, and our dancers are, too. I went to chat up the Laker Girls, who have their own budding rivalry with the new Celtics dance team. (Copycats!)

Who: Allison, fourth year as a Laker Girl.
Lakers fan since: "Junior high."
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Eleven."
Laker Cheerleaders
The Laker Girls weren't exactly spewing venom about their counterparts in Boston.
Why: "I grew up here and my parents were Lakers fans, so there's always been a bad taste in my mouth. And it got worse since they've been showing those video clips here."
How bad does the Celtics dance team suck? "Last year was their first year. Their organization is very traditional, so it took them awhile to adopt a dance team, but I'm so happy they did."
Worst thing she'd do to the Celtics if she knew she'd get away with it: "I'd mess with their dancers. Maybe mess with their music player, speed up a song, or slow it down."

Who: Candace, second year as a Laker Girl.
Lakers fan since: "I grew up in Dallas. But I always thought the Lakers were exciting."
Celtics hate rating: "Ten."
Why: "I just think the Lakers are so exciting. They work so hard and they have really great teamwork.:
Ugliest current Celtic: "The Lakers are better looking."
How bad does the Celtics dance team suck? "They're equally as good."
Worst thing she'd do to the Celtics if she knew she'd get away with it: "Nothing too bad. Maybe take their uniforms."


The key to the future is in the past: Magic Johnson
The Lakers are in a hole. Panic has gripped Laker Nation. It's time to get back to the root of it all. It's time to consult a man who's been there, hated that and emerged a two-time victor. It's time for Magic.

At the conclusion of Sunday night's Game 2, Magic Johnson caught a red-eye flight from Boston to Los Angeles to join wife Cookie and director Spike Lee at the AMC Magic Johnson Crenshaw 15 theater for Monday's world premiere of two PSAs for the I Stand With Magic Program, part of The Campaign to End Black HIV/AIDS.

Who: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, 48, Celtics slayer.
Celtics hate rating (out of 10): "Off the charts. Oh brother, the hate runs deep."
What it feels like to beat the Celtics: "You're in disbelief, like, 'Wow, we did it. We beat the Celtics.' It's such a high, you kind of wish you were still playing. You can't sleep. You can't get rid of the rush. But when you do, you start thinking about where you're going to party, and how you're going to beat them next year."
What it feels like to lose to the Celtics: "You don't leave your house for two weeks. You don't want to see anybody. You don't want to talk to anybody. And it doesn't leave you. For me, it still hurts."
What's ailing the current Lakers: "We've been outphysicaled by them. We're going soft to the basket. They get all of the loose balls, the rebounds, getting to the free-throw line. We've got to be aggressive. We've got to play with a sense of purpose. Boston is playing with that sense. We need that mind-set. I'm mad. I got up at 3:30 this morning. I'm upset.'
Do the current Lakers hate the Celtics enough? "We can only hope. When you're in it, you have to feel it. You have to remember the great history. Both cities can respect each other, but we knew that they have to hate us and we have to hate them if we're going to beat each other."

Enough said. I hate the Celtics now, tomorrow, and even when I pass on, when I arrive at the pearly gates, where I'll make a beeline for Red, a man I never knew, and shove his cigar up …

Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles. His Media Blitz column appears in ESPN The Magazine and regularly on Page 2. You can reach him at sam.alipour@gmail.com.