Press release from ESPN, May 31, 2017:
There are rivalries, and then there is the Celtics versus the Lakers. “Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies,” a five-hour 30 for 30 film event, chronicles the storied franchises’ epic clashes and relives the Boston-LA battle from both sides, with sensational footage and fresh, insightful interviews. The three-part documentary will premiere with Parts One and Two back-to-back on Tuesday, June 13, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and Part Three on Wednesday, June 14, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Directed by Jim Podhoretz (The Gospel According to Mac) and Executive Produced by Jonathan Hock (Of Miracles and Men, The Best That Never Was), the film not only gets to the heart of the greatest tug-of-war in NBA history, but also shows how their three riveting NBA Finals match-ups over a four-year period in the mid-1980s fueled the popularity of the league, changed popular culture and set the stage for the tremendous growth and profile of the NBA since.
“I began my career at NBA Entertainment in 1985 (actually Jon Hock and I started on the same day), and I vividly remember being a 24-year-old production assistant and sitting courtside in the Boston Garden for the 1987 NBA Finals,” says Podhoretz. “While some of the Celtics-Lakers story has been chronicled before, we hope to bring to our production the experience of going through it from a visceral and highly partisan standpoint. We found the players that we interviewed to be totally engaged. The vivid details that they recall, the candid feelings, their hatred, their joy and their vulnerability are all out there for people to see.”
Viewers will witness the heroics, the buzzer-beaters and the fights. Thanks to Podhoretz, who began his career chronicling the Celtics for NBA Entertainment, they will also get an engaging history lesson–one that begins in the 1960s when the Celtics dominated the Lakers and continues with the 1979 NCAA Championship Game, when Larry Bird of Indiana State and Magic Johnson of Michigan State set the tone for a new chapter in the rivalry that would dominate the NBA in the ensuing decade.
“At the 30th anniversary of the last meeting in the NBA Finals between the Celtics and Lakers in the 1980s, we thought it was a great time to take an unprecedented look at the rivalry that helped shape what the league has become,” says 30 for 30 Executive Producer John Dahl. “And now with two new dominant teams – the Cavaliers and Warriors – meeting in the Finals for the third straight year, we believe this story is more relevant than ever.”
The two-night event will break down as follows:
Parts One and Two of the film not only trace the history, but also present a fabulous cast of characters who would change the NBA and open America’s collective mind. At the center of it all in the 1980s was a pair of brilliant basketball talents – Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers circled each other for four years until they faced off in an epic NBA Finals in 1984.
Part Three picks up the story right after the thrilling 1984 NBA Finals and then explores the saga from 1985 to 1987 as the teams’ disdain for each other gradually turns to respect. The Celtics and Lakers – Bird and Magic in particular – transformed the fans’ view of the game from simple black-and-white to full-blown Technicolor. By the end of their last battle of that era in 1987, while there was still animosity, they had also developed a hard-earned respect for each other. In the final analysis, it was a rivalry that forced America to no longer view the league in black and white.