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The origin of “BEAT L.A.” ! — The Boston Celtics Are In The NBA Finals! June 1, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Definitions.
BEAT L.A. !!

BEAT L.A. !!

You’ll be hearing the simple yet powerful “Beat LA!, Beat LA!, Beat LA!” battle cry all over New England now that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry has been renewed for the Finals.

For most fans, the chant is reminiscent of the playoff games in the old Boston Garden in the 1980s, when Magic Johnson squared off against Larry Bird and the Celtics and Lakers dominated the NBA.

But that’s not when the chant took off in Boston. It actually started as a chant supporting the Philadelphia 76ers.

For Celtics fans of that time period, the 76’ers were the team to beat. Crucial to the understanding of this story, however, is the fact that the Celtics and 76’ers respected each other wholly. So did the fans of both. They were enemies, but they were enemies who had earned their due.

In 1980, Philadelphia beat Boston in the semi-finals, earning a trip to meet the Lakers for the championship. In 1981, Boston beat Philadelphia, coming back from a three-games-to-one deficit. In 1982, they met once again in the semi-finals, and here is where the tale becomes more than just your usual sports story.

As always between these two teams, the 1982 series was an all-out total war. There was little to separate the two squads. The Celtics had Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Cedric Maxwell, Danny Ainge and Tiny Archibald. The 76’ers had Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Caldwell Jones, Darryl Dawkins and Andrew Toney. And, again, it came down to a seventh game, this time being played at the old Boston Garden.

The Garden was packed to the rafters, hot and muggy, as it usually was during the later rounds of the playoffs. Both teams battled hard, as they always did. The game went back-and-forth, one team gaining momentum and then the other.

With 26 seconds to go in Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference finals at the old Garden and the Sixers pulling away from the soon-to-be ex-champs, the crowd began to chant, with no prompting from a giant scoreboard, or from cheerleaders, or due to any sort of pre-packaged canned marketing, the now-famous phrase. Philadelphia, after all, would be facing the hated Lakers in the NBA Finals. In the midst of a heartbreaking defeat, they were cheering on their most hated rivals.

“You hear what the crowd is chanting to the Sixers? ‘Beat LA'” said CBS color commentator and Celtics legend Bill Russell as the Sixers were beating Boston 117-105 as the seconds ticked down.

“Beat LA … that’s great,” replied play-by-play man Dick Stockton.

And so it began.

“That was nice,” Series MVP Julius Erving said after that game, according to Sports Illustrated’s Anthony Cotton. “But it wasn’t as loud as ‘See you Sunday,’ was it?”

The “See you Sunday” chant was also made famous during the same series in Game 5 at the Garden, when the Celtics were down three games to one but the Boston fans were sure the Sixers would return to Boston for a deciding Game 7.

The “Beat LA” chant remains one of the most original creations from Boston, rivaling the “Ster-oids, Ster-oids” chants to Jose Canseco at Fenway in 1988. And the “Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl” shouts to Mets outfielder Daryl Strawberry during the 1986 World Series.

Philadelphia would lose to the Lakers in six games in the 1982 NBA Finals, but that didn’t stop the chant from spreading around the nation like a plague without a cure. It was even heard in the Meadowlands when the Ducks, who play in Anaheim, not L.A., faced the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. “The fortunate but unfortunate part about the “Beat L.A.” (chant) is that it’s so unoriginal,” Derek Fisher said, breaking into a wry smile when asked if he was looking forward to hearing it from the Boston crowd.


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