For professional basketball, the classic tip-off can't come soon enough. The Celtics-Lakers era of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made the NBA a sports powerhouse. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls kept it soaring.
But it's been tough going many years since then.
This hour, On Point: We talk with Danny Ainge and top sportswriters - on Celtics, Lakers and the future of the NBA.
Danny Ainge on the Celtics and Lakers, then and now:
Use the audio links below to listen to Danny Ainge's interview with Tom Ashbrook, and hear him respond to questions from our guests Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated and David Steele of The Baltimore Sun.
Comparing the Celtics and Lakers of the 80s to today's teams, McCallum asked Ainge (in good humor), "Will you explain to people that you guys weren't really that damn good defensively? [that the current team], they're not as good a team, but they're better defensively than teams were in the 80s, in general?" You can hear Ainge's reply:
DANNY AINGE: I would agree with that.... I think that the Lakers and Celtics of the 80s were very good defensive teams in the last 5 minutes of games.... But our team now plays defense for 48 minutes better than our teams in the 80s did. At the same time, the offense is not as good. And the offense is not as good because the offensive players are not as good.... I don't think either one of these teams [now] have the same kind of [offensive] firepower, but they do have better athletes and better defensive energy than I think either one of those teams [in the 80s] had.
Danny Ainge, general manager and executive director of basketball operations for The Boston Celtics, and a former Celtics guard with the legendary 1980s team.
Jack McCallum, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and author of this week's cover story on the Celtics and Lakers, "The Rivalry."
David Steele, sports columnist for The Baltimore Sun.
Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly.
This program aired on June 5, 2008.