The rivalry between Magic & Bird is for me the greatest in sports history. This is the story of two talented young players who battled for the NCAA National Championship in 1979. And the next decade, they still battled for the NBA Championship. History made it big, Magic played for the Lakers, Bird for the Celtics. It couldn’t be more exciting, they played for the two famous rivalry teams in NBA history.
Before playing in the NBA, Magic & Bird rivalry was born. Magic played for Michigan State University & Larry for Indiana State University. Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson got his nickname because of his show time game style (no look pass was his favorite play). He led his team to reach the NCAA National Championship Finals against Larry Bird’s team which recorded 33-0 in 1979. Larry Bird was the most efficient player in NCAA with 28.6 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 5.5 apg & 53.2 % from the field.
That was HUGE !
But the day of the NCAA finals, that was Magic’s day. Michigan State University’s coach focused his team on Larry Bird. That was the good solution during the game. Bird was as dominant as he was the entire season. And then, Magic Johnson won the 1979 NCAA Championship. That was the first finals between Magic & Bird.
NBA Rookie Season
Magic was drafted in 1st position by the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird in 6th by the Boston Celtics.
They played great in their rookie year and became quickly two of the most exciting players in the league
Rookie season stats :
Magic 18 PPG 7.7 RPG 7.3 APG 53% FG
Bird 21.3 PPG 10.4 RPG 4.5 APG 47.4% FG
At the end of the regular season, the Lakers reached the NBA Finals against the 76ers of Julius Erving. But it was Larry Bird who won the Rookie of the year award with 63 votes. (Magic got only 3 votes). This year Magic was selected to play in the All Star game. In the Finals, the Lakers led 3-2 and Kareem Abdul Jabbar couldn’t play on game 6 (sprained ankle). Lakers’ coach decided to start Magic at center. Magic recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists & 3 steals. One of the biggest performance in NBA Finals history !!! The Lakers won the NBA title and Magic was named NBA Finals MVP. He is the only rookie to win the Finals MVP award.
After that huge rookie season, Magic & Bird accomplished great performances and both won many titles. In the 80’s, Lakers & Celtics met them 3 times in 4 years. Magic won 5 championship, Bird won 3.
Regular season stats :
Magic 19.5 PPG 7.2 RPG 11.2 APG 52% FG
Bird 24.3 PPG 10 RPG 6.3 APG 49.6% FG
Playoffs stats :
Magic 19.5 PPG 7.7 RPG 12.3 APG 50.6% FG
Bird 23.8 PPG 10.3 RPG 6.5 APG 47.2% FG
NBA Titles & MVP Awards :
Magic 5x NBA Champion
3x NBA Finals MVP
3x NBA Most Valuable Player
Bird 3x NBA Champion
2x NBA Finals MVP
3x NBA Most Valuable Player
They ended their career in Barcelona Olympics in 1992. They played together for Team USA’s Dream Team with Michael Jordan and won the Gold medal.
For me, the rivalry between Magic & Bird is the famous one in sports. These two great basketball players are in the top 3 all time behind Michael Jordan.
After that, they are best friends for life.