The National Basketball Association could not have scripted a better scenario, in the opinion of many. The Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, and they are competing in Game 7 to determine the league championship. Tonight should be an epic battle with star power, history, and more. The league has not seen a night like this in a long time.

“Let’s be realistic,” said KTLA sportscaster Steve Hartman. “The NBA, (Commissioner) David Stern, and ABC is loving this right now. If they couldn’t get Kobe (Bryant) and LeBron (James), the only other match-up that could actually surpass that is the Lakers against the Celtics. These are the two most storied franchises in basketball, by far.”

This series has not disappointed the millions of fans watching across the United States as one team has grabbed the advantage only to have momentum snatched away by the other. The 2010 Finals has featured star performances from both teams (Bryant, Pau Gasol, for the Lakers; Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo for the Celtics) as well as unexpected star performances from less prominent team members (Derek Fisher of the Lakers; Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Nate Robinson of the Celtics). The adjustments made by head coaches, Phil Jackson and Glenn “Doc” Rivers, have added to the compelling action that fans across the nation, especially in Los Angeles and Boston, have seen.

This will be the fifth time the Lakers have faced the Celtics in a Game 7. Longtime Laker supporters have experienced pain in the previous four matchups–Los Angeles lost all of them. Past Laker players Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, the late Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and James Worthy all have had the symbolic dagger driven through their hearts in Game 7 losses to the Celtics in 1962, 1966, 1969, and 1984.

Tonight at 9 o’clock will determine whether the pain continues or if relief comes. Here is a recap of the Lakers- Celtics history below.

1962: The Lakers took a 3-2 lead in Boston as Baylor bedazzles the defensive congregation of the Celtics for a Finals-record 61 points. Center Bill Russell and the Celtics regroup and win Game 6 in Los Angeles to set up Game 7 back in Boston Garden. Although Boston led well into the fourth, West and Baylor rallied the Lakers to a tie with under a minute left and got the ball back with 10 seconds to play. The Celtics shut off all outlets to West and Baylor and Lakers forward Frank Selvy was left alone on the left baseline, but his shot rimmed out as the regulation buzzer sounded. The game went into overtime where Boston outscored the Lakers, and the Celtics won the title.

1966: The Finals open in Boston, and the Lakers shock the Celtics by winning Game 1. Retiring Celtics head coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach doused the Lakers’ momentum by announcing that Russell will take over for him as head coach following the Finals. Russell thus became the first Black head coach in professional sports in America. The Celtics won the next three games to take a 3-1 lead. Although the Los Angeles Lakers won Games 5 and 6 to tie the series, the Celtics take Game 7 in Boston to win their eighth consecutive title.

1969: For the first time ever, Los Angeles had home court advantage over the Celtics, who were an aging team. Game 7, if needed, would be at the Forum in Inglewood. Additionally, after being dominated and intimidated for years by Russell at center, the Lakers acquired Chamberlain to combat him in the pivot. The Finals went to Game 7. Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke ordered that balloons be put in the Forum rafters and released after the Lakers beat the Celtics for the championship. “Those balloons are gonna be up there a hell of a long time,” snarled Russell. Los Angeles coach Butch van Breda Kolff refused to put Chamberlain back in the game late in the fourth quarter after the center came out with a sprained knee then asked to go back into action. Despite a heroic performance by West (42 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists), Russell symbolically popped the Lakers balloons and retired, after capturing his 11th title in 13 years.

1984: After a 15-year hiatus, the teams went at it again. There was a new cast of characters (Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale for the Celtics; Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Worthy, Michael Cooper for the Lakers). With the Lakers leading the series 2-1, McHale applied a clothesline tackle on Lakers’ forward Kurt Rambis, rattling Los Angeles and turning the series to Boston. In Game 7, with under three minutes left, “Magic” Johnson was stripped of the ball on consecutive possessions down the floor by Celtics Dennis Johnson and Parish and secured another championship for the Celtics in Boston Garden.