My interest in the NBA began as an 11-year-old watching Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan duke it out in the 1991 NBA Finals. I vividly remember the Lakers' Western Conference finals Game 6 against the Portland Trail Blazers when Magic tossed the ball out from the Lakers' end to the Blazers basket to run out the clock and Portland’s hopes for a shift back home to try and clinch the series.
I stuck with my Lakers through the thin years when Sedale Threatt and Nick Van Exel were the best players on the team. And I was there for the resurgence with the arrival of Shaq and Kobe.
The return to glory for the Lakers, however, wasn’t without opposition and in the last decade they have been primarily thwarted by the San Antonio Spurs. Since the 1999 season, NBA fans have been witnesses to the birth and growth of an epic rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
The teams met five times in the playoffs in a six-year span, and this year will be the sixth in 10. The winner of this series went on to win the crown in four of those five years, and there are a lot of reasons to believe that this season will bear similar results.
In the strike-shortened 1999 season, the San Antonio Spurs began their championship run dismantling a young Lakers team as they swept them in the Western Conference Finals, and then easily handled the New York Knicks to finally help get David Robinson his first championship trophy. From that point, the Lakers matured into the team that would win the next three championships.
In 2001, the Lakers returned the favor to an over-matched Spurs squad by sweeping them out of the Western Conference Finals en route to one of the most dominating post-season runs in NBA history. If it weren’t for Derek Fisher’s series-shifting shot in Game 5 during the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, it is possible that the Spurs could have moved on to defend their crown that season and then these two teams would account for all but one of the last nine championships.