Two differing takes on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, here and here. Concerning the first article, one of the things that made the mid-80's match-ups so memorable was the thinly-veiled racial animus between the followers of the two teams. In that more beknighted age, stereotyping was much more casual; sportwriters could get away with the extolling the "blue collar," "lunch-bucket" approach that the "heady" Celtics utilized against the "athletic," "talented" Lakers. White stars like McHale and Bird were assumed to be great "clutch" players, and conversely, if the Lakers lost, the hoary stereotype of black athletes "choking" in big games was resurrected.
It went both ways: in spite of having a black coach and one of the finest traditions in integrating sports this side of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Celtics became the team African-Americans loved to hate. In Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee has a white yuppie who is moving into the neighborhood wear a Celtics jersey, a not so subtle way of suggesting that the gentrifying character was a racist. A hardy perennial of sports pages at the time was the article on African-Americans in Boston, openly rooting against the local team and in favor of the Lakers or Pistons. But since the mainstream media of the time was so overwhelmingly white, it was the Celtics who were celebrated, and the Lakers who were made to play the villains.
And it wasn't just the Lakers; in the '86 Finals, a white Celtic benchwarmer cheapshotted Ralph Sampson in Game 5, leading to a melee that got the Rocket center ejected, and for years after was vilified for fighting a white player. Zeke finally called bullshit on all that after a tough Eastern Conference Finals in 1987, just a month after Al Campanis had gone on Nightline and stretched the envelope for what could be considered acceptable racial stereotyping, and a heated debate on the subject resulted. You still see a semblance of that stereotyping, but I have the impression that reporters are now more careful about the terms they use to describe the ability of top players.