Rivalries are part of what makes watching sports great. It’s always fun to see your favorite team pick up a win, but it just means more when that win comes against a team where there’s a shared history of contempt and even hate.
Part of what makes watching sports so compelling is the way that emotions are laid bare on the playing surface: there aren’t many other scenarios in American culture where you can see grown men and women cry freely without fear of being judged.
It’s much the same with a heated rivalry, where one might root against the teams they love to hate as if their life and happiness depended on the outcome. The NBA has seen more than its fair share of rivalries throughout its history, whether it was Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls against Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons.
We may not have any rifts of that degree of ferocity in the league today — those were some of the all time great rivalries, after all, but the Boston Celtics have a couple feuds with their fellow Eastern Conference teams that could be brewing to that level of hate. Here’s a look at what those rivalries are, and what makes them great.
Right now it looks like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics are poised to vie for dominance of the Eastern Conference for much of the next decade. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Boston’s Jayson Tatum are perennial MVP candidates, and the two teams currently sit with the best odds to win it all this season at various sportsbooks, where you can get started on betting with this ESPN BET Massachusetts promo code would be a good opportunity, considering it will be available this November with great offers to the bettors.
Milwaukee and Boston faced off in the semifinals in 2022 in a thrilling series that went the distance, and there’s a good chance that we’ll see them clash with a championship on the line again this season.
One underrated storyline to keep an eye on is that the Celtics picked up longtime Bucks guard Jrue Holiday — who helped Milwaukee win the NBA championship in 2021 — this offseason. If they end up meeting in the playoffs, you can be sure that Holiday’s performance against his old team will be under the microscope.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and you can be sure that there’s plenty of that emotion between these two teams. Miami and Boston have clashed in the playoffs in three of the past four years, with Miami claiming the upper hand with a pair of series wins.
The Heat don’t have quite the same level of talent that the Celtics do — although they have plenty of excellent players like Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler — but their disciplined defensive play and refusal to give in makes them a nightmare draw for any team. There are a few things more frustrating in sports than watching your team lose to a group that you know they should be able to beat. To use a played out wrestling term, the Heat are the heels of this era of the NBA, which makes for an excellent, if maddening rivalry.
After seeing their magical seasons come to an end twice at the hand of this Heat team, you can be sure that the Celtics and their fans will have any matchup with Miami circled on the calendar ahead of time. If they end up meeting in the playoffs again this year, be sure to buckle up ahead of the fireworks.
Much like with Miami, the cities of Boston and Philadelphia have a long history when it comes to sports. Celtics’ superstar Jayson Tatum had legitimate MVP award hopes for much of last season, but it was Joel Embiid, the face of the Sixers’ franchise, who ended up swiping that award away from him.
Boston has had the last laugh during the modern rendition of this rivalry, though, as it’s the Celtics who have sent the 76ers packing in three of Philadelphia’s postseason appearances with Embiid at the helm.
No matter if it’s between the fans or the players, trash talk is part of what makes a rivalry great. There’s no love lost between these two cities, especially after the Eagles and the Patriots split a pair of Super Bowl matchups in 2005 and 2017. The Boston and Philadelphia fanbases are notorious for their passionate, almost overbearing nature, so it’s no surprise that this rivalry has quite a bit of fire, even if it’s been pretty one-sided in favor of the Celtics.
Rivalries add extra excitement to sports, and the Boston Celtics have some intense ones in the Eastern Conference. Facing off against the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers, these matchups are filled with competition and emotion. The Celtics are set for compelling clashes in the years to come, making basketball fans eagerly anticipate each encounter.