Boston's new Big Three reached the NBA's big stage. And just like their predecessors, they'll share it with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celtics and Lakers are meeting again in the NBA finals, with Kobe and KG taking their place alongside the likes of Magic and Bird in the league's most storied rivalry.
``It means everything to Boston fans,'' Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. ``To me, I think that's what pretty much got me started in basketball. Growing up in Los Angeles, watching the Lakers and the Celtics, and it's ironic, just being a Celtic, growing up, now you're playing against the Lakers in the finals.
``It's a dream come true, man, just thinking about it. I think that rivalry really revolutionized the game of basketball, and now I'm a part of it.''
It will be the 11th championship meeting between the franchises, with Boston winning eight of its NBA-best 16 titles against the Lakers. But Los Angeles won the last two, in 1985 and '87.
Boston earned its first trip since by beating the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics ended the series with an 89-81 victory Friday and will host Game 1 of the finals on Thursday night.
Kevin Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen, Boston's three All-Stars, are all in the finals for the first time. Garnett and Allen were acquired in offseason trades, and together with Pierce led the Celtics to the largest turnaround in NBA history.
Boston won only 24 games in 2006-07, but led the NBA with a 66-16 mark this season. However, the Lakers have been the dominant team in the postseason, compiling a 12-3 record.
Los Angeles eliminated the San Antonio Spurs in five games, wrapping up the series with a 100-92 victory on Thursday. Kobe Bryant, the league MVP, scored 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter and is averaging 31.9 points in the postseason.
Bryant helped the Lakers win three straight titles from 2000-02, and they fell short of another with a loss to the Pistons in 2004. They fell on hard times after that, following the trade of Shaquille O'Neal, missing the postseason in 2005 and getting knocked out in the first round the next two years.
A frustrated Bryant criticized the front office following last summer's loss to Phoenix and said he wanted to be traded, but instead the Lakers kept him and upgraded the team around him. Los Angeles brought back Derek Fisher, Bryant's teammate on the previous championship teams, then pulled off a major trade during the season by acquiring Pau Gasol from Memphis.
The Celtics haven't won a title since Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish led them past Houston in 1986. Boston and the Lakers of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dominated the NBA in the 1980s: From 1980-88, the two rivals won all but one of the nine NBA championships - three for Boston, five for Los Angeles (and one for the Philadelphia 76ers) - and met for the title three times in four years.
``I remember it like it was yesterday,'' Garnett said. ``I'm looking forward to this.''
The Lakers have won 14 championships - nine in Los Angeles and five in Minneapolis.
Boston, which won both meetings during the regular season, also will host Game 2 before the series moves to Los Angeles for Games 3-5.

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