Rivalry doesn't fade in down years
Ask people outside Los Angeles to answer this question, and Lakers-Celtics likely wins.
It's the sexy matchup, with all the high-profile history, with so many championships on the line. No question, it's one of the greatest in all of sports, but is also an all-or-nothing proposition. Massive in the 1960s, historic in the '80s, and revived again in 2008 and 2010.
When it matters, Lakers vs. Celtics is awesome. But in a bunch of years, it really doesn't. Particularly through the '90s and most of the 2000s -- when the Celtics weren't good -- it was just another regular-season game on the calendar.
Now Dodgers vs. Giants?
Here's a rivalry making a difference every single year, with a history equally rich. The Shot Heard 'Round the World back when both teams were New York based. Tight pennant battles through the '60s. The Juan Marichal-John Roseboro brawl. Steve Finley's grand slam in '04. And it looks once again like the Dodgers and Giants will battle for the division title.
When one team or the other is not atop the standings, the Giants and Dodgers frequently have played spoiler for the other. This is what happens when teams meet 2,200 times over their respective histories, more than any in Major League Baseball.
This rivalry doesn't take weeks off, and certainly doesn't fade from relevance for years at a time, as Lakers/Celtics can.
Heated, high-stakes clashes win the day
Lakers-Celtics, and it's no contest.
To begin, you have a rich history of animosity fueled by high-stakes action. It's one thing to battle in the playoffs, but quite another to duke it out for all the marbles.
The Lakers spent nearly the entire 1960s trying to break through in the NBA Finals against Bill Russell's Green. Then came the '80s and a renewed antagonism that resuscitated a sagging league. And just when it seemed this bad blood was running on nothing but nostalgic fumes, the 2008 Finals unexpectedly pitted these teams once more, complete with a rematch two seasons later.
Heck, "Magic-Bird" is arguably the gold standard for rivalries in sports, much less basketball.
Plus, the answer can be found by simply taking the city's pulse. Los Angeles is first and foremost a Lakers town. Period.
No squad excites and unites Angelenos more than the purple and gold, which gives the 16-time champions a serious leg up on the competition. The Dodgers may be a storied franchise and their fan base incredibly loyal, but L.A. cares more about the Lakers. That's just a fact, and the urgency felt between Halloween and (if all goes well) mid-June puts the Lakers over the top.
By extension, so goes their most heated rivalry.