Two men with the same dream.
Hollywood could not have written a better script for the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It really was a scene straight out of an action movie, when Bird and Magic step on the court at the same time. Not only was it entertainment for the fans, but at the same time it really put the NBA back on the map.
In a time where the NBA was at its low point in its history, this rivalry between Bird and Magic changed the NBA forever.
The rivalry started back in college, before they even had a chance to face in the NBA. Both Bird and Magic were huge prospects coming out of college. They finally got to go head to get for the National Championship in college. Magic and Michigan State got the best of Bird and Indiana in that game. Ever since that lose, Bird had a desire to get back at Magic and get revenge.
What makes this rivalry what it is has to be the two contrasting personalities between Bird and Magic. Bird was the country kid from Indiana; Magic was the Hollywood star.
He took on the Hollywood star persona right when he was drafted by the Lakers. When Bird played he did it by the books, he was your traditional do it by the rules while staying professional on and off the court. When Magic played he was flashy, sure he wanted to win like everyone else, but he was an entertainer and wanted to put on a show for the fans.
The rivalry reached a pinnacle when the Lakers and the Celtics faced off for the first time in the 1984 championship. The Celtics and Bird finally beat Magic and the Lakers. That was only the beginning. The Lakers beat the Celtics the following year and again in 1987 giving the Magic a 3-1 edge in their head to head match ups.
The funny thing about this rivalry between Bird and Magic on the court is that they were good friends off the court. Magic thought that they could remain friends on the court, but Bird saw Magic as a rival just like every other player that he had versed. Bird and Magic would shoot commercials together and even had a shoe and apparel line. Each shoe had different colors and fans would buy the colors for the player that they supported. It really took the NBA and put it in the mainstream, dividing fans and people making them chose a side of either Magic or bird.
All of a sudden things changed though, out of nowhere Magic was diagnosed with HIV and doctors told him that he wasn’t allowed to play basketball anymore. That really hit Magic hard; he realized for the first time in his life how much basketball really meant to him.
Bird was also affected by this as well. He took this news really hard. It was the first time, both of them realized how lucky they really are to be playing basketball because life can hit you hard and you’re not grateful for something you have until it’s gone.
Bird vs. Magic revolutionized not only the NBA, but all of sports. It showed two men with a rivalry on the court, but a strong friendship and respect off the court.
When it comes to the list of the greatest rivalries in sports, it’s hard not to put Bird and Magic at the top.