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Those consecutive NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers in 1984 and 1985 were some of the most grueling, intense meetings in NBA history. The players did not like each other, and it showed. Many billed those showdowns as the Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson rivalry, but it was much more than that. Two participants, Michael Cooper of the Lakers and Robert Parish of the Celtics, got together 37 years later and reminisced about those heated battles.

Those ’84 and ’85 meetings had brawls, physical play, and dramatic finishes. The conversation between the two stars resulted in some rare swearing from Parish and some sweating from Cooper.

Michael Cooper and Robert Parish faced off in the NBA Finals three times

Michael Cooper of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a technical free throw during an NBA game against the Boston Celtics at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California in 1987. | Rick Stewart/Getty Images.

The Lakers and the Celtics were regulars in the NBA Finals throughout the 1980s. In each year of the decade, either the Lakers or the Celtics managed to reach the finals. They squared off against each other in 1984, 1985, and 1987, with the Celtics winning the first matchup and the Lakers claiming the next two.

Cooper and Parish reminisced about those meetings when Parish was a guest on Cooper’s Showtime With Coop podcast. The former Lakers guard said he gets upset when he thinks about the 1984 series. He said it still bothers him, knowing the Lakers let one get away.

“The 1984 is a championship loss that to this day, Robert, sticks with me, and it just eats at me,” Cooper said. “It really does.”

The Lakers outplayed the Celtics much of the series, stealing Game 1 in Boston and nearly taking a 2-0 series lead. LA led by two points in the waning seconds of Game 2, but Gerald Henderson stole a James Worthy pass and converted it into a game-tying layup. Boston tied the series in overtime and eventually won the series in seven games.

“You know what?” Cooper said. “We should’ve whipped y’all’s ass, man.”

Michael Cooper and Robert Parish get animated when talking about those NBA Finals

Parish said he understood how Cooper felt when the Lakers lost in 1984.

“When I was a Celtic, we got to the championship five times,” he said. “We won three. Those two losses still cross my mind from time to time. That’s the ultimate prize. All your work and sacrifice and dedication, focus. That is your reward, gratification.”

Cooper admitted the focus throughout the year was on the Celtics. Parish said the same thing was going on in Boston. The Celtics used the regular season to get ready for the Lakers.

Cooper said that was especially the case after blowing the 1984 Finals. He remembers how devastated Magic Johnson was after that loss.

“We were in the locker room, and it was just horrible, man,” Cooper said. “We were just sitting there, and Magic and I were the last two to take a shower. We were sitting in the corner — I remember this vividly — the water’s running, and Magic said this. He said, “You know what, Coop? We will never lose to these motherf****** again.

“It was the way he said it. When your leaders say something a certain way, it makes you sit up and pay attention. And you know we came back, and we had you guys focused, number one, from Day One.”

The ’85 Finals still has Parish swearing and Cooper sweating


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The Lakers found redemption in 1985 despite getting blown out in Game 1 in the game known as the Memorial Day Massacre. LA pulled it together and won the series in six games, celebrating the championship on the floor of the Boston Garden.

“I always felt like, Coop, you guys had the edge slightly because you had a little bit more firepower,” Parish said. “When you guys beat us in ’85, Larry said something similar — we gonna get these motherf****** next time.”

“Wow, you’re really getting comfortable now because you’re cursing,” Cooper said. “I love that.”

“I don’t do it often,” Parish said, “but I do do it.”

“That Celtics/Lakers rivalry brings out some — I’m sweating under my arms over here,” Cooper said.

The Lakers never made it to the NBA Finals in ’86, losing to the Houston Rockets. Parish and the Celtics made quick work of the Rockets. Parish said the Celtics were so geared up for the Lakers that they took it all out on Houston.

“We were so ready for your Lakers,” Parish said. “The Rockets didn’t stand a chance. We ran through them like a laxative.”