During this last Philadelphia 76ers playoff run, the team met the Boston Celtics for the first time since 2012. That matchup was fun six years ago (especially the part where Andre Iguodala dunked on Paul Pierce’s dome in game six of that series). This recent meeting was even better. Both the Sixers and Celtics were (theoretically) able to contend for the Eastern Conference title. There was a lot of animosity in the series. That’s great. That means the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics appear to have revived their rivalry of the 1980’s. Let’s go!
This actually got me thinking. What is the inspiration for the newest generation of Celtics fans to dislike the Sixers and their fans?
Could it have anything to do with Joel Embiid dunking on Aron Baynes this hard?
If you know the movie “Ghostbusters”, you know that one of the rules is don’t cross the streams. There’s a reason, and I’ll quote Harold Ramis as Egon Spangler: “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”
That’s how hard Embiid dunked on Baynes in Game 3. The Celtics may have still won the series, but we can hang on to that highlight for a little while.
Championship envy? The Celtics won a title in 2008 (and multiple in the 80’s), while the Sixers still haven’t won a championship since 1983. They (Celtics fans) can’t have championship envy towards Sixers fans because they’ve at least won several in (and one since) the Reagan Administration.
So, it’s not championship envy. What else could there be?
There’s the legend of the “Boston Strangler” Andrew Toney. Toney isn’t a very popular guy in Boston thanks in large part to his playoff numbers. Over his career, Toney averaged 19.8 points per game in 19 playoff games, but it’s the 1982 playoffs, in particular, that irk Celtics fans. In the ‘82 Playoffs, Toney scored 22.1 ppg shooting 47% from the field.
After dropping 39 in Game 4, the Celtics had taken enough of his nonsense and reduced his production to 18 points in Game 5 and a paltry 3 points off 1-11 from the field the following contest. Toney arrived once again in Game 7.
As the clip suggests, Toney and Julius Erving combined for 63 points in that Game 7 victory (in Boston, by the way). Julius Erving. That name isn’t real popular in Boston, either. I wonder why.
Oh, right. I remember.
It was November 9, 1984 in the Boston Garden. The Sixers were 5-0. The Celtics were 4-0. The game was nice and civil for two quarters, and then this epic fight between Erving and Larry Bird took place.
Erving was ejected with six points, three rebounds and five assists. Bird had posted 42 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. The Celtics won the game 130-119, but Sixers fans will never forget the night Dr. J served “Larry Legend” a two-piece.
We all know why Celtics fans had some extra animosity this past playoff run, though: February 4, 2018; Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33.
Celtics fans and Patriots fans are all together, and the residual saltiness of the Super Bowl loss permeated to Celtic fandom. That was only natural, right? If the roles were reversed, sure, Sixers fans MIGHT have been the same way. (We’ll never know, though, because we got the Lombardi.)
Whatever the reason for the Sixers/Celtics animosity, I’m happy it’s back. Many of us were told about the great rivalry of the 80’s with Dr. J, Moses, Toney, Bird, and McHale. With the way the teams are set up now for future playoff battles, it’ll be nice to tell our generation’s story of the rivalry to the next generation.