Historic NBA rivalry brings Southern California fans from far and wide to Staples Center

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Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

The Pulido family of South Los Angeles cheers for the home team at Staples Center on Thursday, June 3, 2010. David, from left, Anthony, Mom Chantelle and Paul.

The early birds are arriving at Staples Center for tonight's 5:30 NBA finals game between Los Angeles and Boston.

Whether it's the Inglewood Forum or the Staples Center, the magic of Earvin "Magic" Johnson or Kobe Bryant, one thing will remain the same — Southern California fans from far and wide will unite in hatred of the Boston Celtics.

The faces, places, and names have changed a bit.

Johnson will be commentating instead of heading the Laker offensive attack, fans will watch from Staples' luxury sky boxes that didn't exist in the Forum and the starting lineups for both teams watched the original Lakers/Celtics rivalry on television as children.

But the rivalry is as strong as ever, and Laker fans know their team will need lots of support to pull out a victory.

Early birds have trickled into the Staples Center and L.A. Live throughout the day from all over Southern California.

Alberto Arevalos and Sandra Hernandez who drove about two hours from Santa Ana to cheer on the Lakers in matching Kobe Bryant shirts.

Hernandez and Arevalos are well aware of what is at stake tonight and had some choice words for the enemy.

"I'm very excited, I'm pumped," said Hernandez. "I'm ready to see Kobe do some dunks on some people. It's on."

Arevalos added: "It's my first time at a game, so hopefully they win, but I know they will."

The couple will take up two seats in the sold out Staples Center which seats 19,000 people — who will most likely be screaming in one loud voice.

The Lakers are looking for a bit of revenge after losing to the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, and many fans have the bitter taste of defeat lingering on their taste buds.

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