The Celtics–Lakers rivalry is a National Basketball Association (NBA) rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics and the Lakers are the two most storied franchises in the NBA, and the rivalry has often been called the greatest in the NBA. The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers have met a record 12 times in the NBA Finals, starting with their first Finals meeting in 1959. They would both go on to dominate the league in the 1960s and 1980s, facing each other six times in the 1960s, three times in the 1980s, and two times in 2008 and 2010.
The Lakers and Celtics are tied for the highest number of championships in the NBA at 17 apiece, (12 as the L.A. Lakers and 5 as the Minneapolis Lakers). Together, they account for 34 of the 74 championships (or 45%) in NBA history. As of 2018, the Celtics and Lakers have a .590 and .596 all-time winning records respectively. As of the end of the 2020–21 season, Boston is the only team with a winning overall record against the Lakers.
The rivalry has been less intense since the retirements of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the early 1990s. In 2008 the two teams met in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987, with the Celtics winning the series 4–2. They met again in the 2010 NBA Finals, which the Lakers won in 7 games.
During the first decade of the NBA in the 1950s, the Minneapolis Lakers had the first NBA dynasty. Minneapolis would win the first ever Championship Series of the newly formed NBA in 1950 (three BAA Finals were played between 1947–1949 and retroactively counted as NBA Championships, one of which was won by the Lakers in 1949). Under Hall of Fame head coach John Kundla, and with the NBA’s first superstar in George Mikan, they would win three more titles in 1952,1953, and 1954. The Celtics would emerge behind early NBA star Bob Cousy by winning the 1957 NBA Finals and losing in 1958.
The first NBA Finals match-up between the two teams was in 1959 when on April 9, the Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0 for the first sweep in the history of the NBA Finals. This would mark the first Finals loss for the previously dominant Lakers, and the first of eight straight titles for Boston.