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Why Stephen A. Smith is wrong about the Wizards - Celtics rivalry

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One renowned national journalist doesn’t believe in a rivalry between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The season series between the Wizards and Celtics has been constantly chippy for over a year. But before Tuesday night’s game against the Celtics, the Wizards decided to do something radical.

“We’re wearing all black to the game,” Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said to The Washington Post. “So you know where we’re going with that. … We’re ready for whatever, man. Round three. Let’s get it.”

“All black everything,” John Wall said. “A funeral.”

Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was not impressed with the Wizards’ attire.

“That’s cute that they’re wearing all black,” Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said Tuesday, via CSN’s Chase Hughes. “I just kind of laughed [when I heard]… it’s not like it’s a Game 7.”

It’s fair to say that he wasn’t impressed, but it didn’t make a difference in the outburst that the Wizards had on Tuesday. They handled the Celtics in a pretty dominant fashion, shooting from the field at 57.8 percent and scoring 123 points, a season-high, in the win.

Then the question was asked by ESPN’s John Anderson to Stephen A. Smith during "SportsCenter" at 11 P.M. on Tuesday. Is this matchup considered to be a rivalry?

"They're not championship contenders legitimately, and when you're not a championship contender, I don't want to hear a damn thing about a rivalry," Smith said.

Ouch. That’s not a resounding endorsement from Smith, who is one of ESPN’s largest personalities. He would continue in a lengthy diatribe:

I have no problem with you and others, particularly fans, enjoying the game of basketball. The difference between me and y'all is you have this beautiful, comfortable, immaculate studio that you work from on 'SportsCenter.' I have to go on the road and travel ad nauseam throughout the season to watch one lopsided contest after another because Kevin Durant decided to tilt the balance of power by joining Golden State. Don't get me started about how enjoyable this season is. The Finals are going to be epic, assuming it's San Antonio . . . or Golden State with Cleveland, but everybody else, as far I'm concerned, they're all playing for third, fourth or fifth place, which isn't all that exciting for me. Sorry, I don't blame the fans. I certainly don't blame you. But y'all don't have to catch connecting flights and travel all year long just to watch blowouts.

I have some news for Mr. Smith. You’re wrong, but I won’t lecture you. I’ll give you very fair reasons as to why this rivalry is the real deal.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of the word “rivalry” is stated to be “a state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other”. So is this not a rivalry? It definitely is to me and many other people by the exact definition.

The games between the Wizards and Celtics haven’t all been blowouts, outside of a game in November where Washington decked the Celtics 118-93. The other games have been close and competitive to nearly the end of the game. A few weeks ago, that was evident where the game was a 117-108 Celtics win in Boston. Tuesday night’s win over the Celtics was no different.

In other sports, we don’t just write off two playoff contenders because we don’t know that they are good enough to make it to the championship. So why is that in the NBA, two playoff-caliber teams that absolutely despise each other, isn’t a rivalry?

The Wizards are currently sitting at fifth place in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Celtics who sit at the third seed. This is important because they are in a dogfight to inch up in playoff picture. These two teams are very close in the race and they have a history of beef with one another.

These close matchups are what makes basketball exciting. To see players hold such a grudge against a team that they play against about four times a season, makes the notion that this isn’t a rivalry insane.

The media doesn’t make rivalries, the players do. Obviously, with Celtics guard Marcus Smart constantly beefing with Wizards guard Bradley Beal, blowing up on his coach, punching a wall after the game, I will proclaim that this is a rivalry.

I don’t know if that’s clear enough, but that’s a rivalry Mr. Smith. Fair enough? Ok, we’re done here.