Like Jacob Marley himself, three ghosts haunt Lakers fans — the past, present and future of their rivalry with the Celtics. They walk around with the chains of last year’s finals, particularly the game six blowout, as a constant weight and reminder of their troubles.
While the Lakers have played 28 games, all fans have talked about since training camp is the match up with the Celtics on Christmas. (Well, they did talk about the defense some, too.) Fans see this one game like Marley saw Christmas Day, a chance to change, shake off the chains of the past and prove they are worthy. Even if one regular season game cannot really do all those things.
Lakers fans are haunted by the ghosts of Series Past. They remember that while the Celtics were dominating the 60s, the Lakers were often their punching bag in the Finals. Balloons hung in the rafters were never released. The Lakers were for years the Buffalo Bills of the NBA and Celtics fans will gladly remind them of that. (Kareem and the Showtime Lakers help exercise that ghost, clinching a championship in the Boston Garden.)
Then there is the ghost of Series Present. Specifically, last year’s NBA Finals. The Celtics won in six but people remember it almost as if it was a sweep. There was the blown 24-point lead at home and the complete destruction of the Lakers in game six. That series and that final game, more than anything, left psychic scars on Lakers fans that are yet to heal.
Finally, there is the ghost of Series Future. Lakers fans look at their team sleepwalking through much of December while the Celtics win 19 straight, and it is as if the ghost is showing them their own grave. That come next June, a rematch will result in the same ugly outcome.
Only a win in the Finals would completely obliterate these ghosts. But a win on Christmas would have Lakers fans buying a goose for Tiny Tim and feeling a lot jollier.