Celtics’ legend Larry Bird talks about the importance of having Magic Johnson as his rival and how they pushed each other
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are the pillars of two of the most popular franchises in the NBA, the Boston Celtics, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Both the Lakers and the Celtics are tied for the most championships in NBA History, with 17 apiece.
Bird and Magic first met at the 1979 NCAA Finals before going pro. Bird represented Indiana State while Magic played for Michigan State. Magic would prevail over Bird, winning the NCAA championship.
The Hall of Famers would carry their rivalry into the NBA. Interestingly, Bird and Magic would make their debut in the same year (1979). While Magic was the first pick, Bird made the sixth pick. The two superstars would square off against each other in 3 NBA Finals, with Magic having the lead (2-1).
Though the two superstars shared an intense rivalry on the court, Bird admitted that playing against Magic helped him elevate his game to the next level.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson helped bring the best out of each other.
Magic and Bird faced each other 18-times during their respective NBA careers. The Lakers legend had the clear edge winning 11 of the 18 contests, averaging 19.4 PPG, 11.5 APG, and 6.8 RPG, shooting 49.6% from the field in those games.
Despite the Celtics being on the losing side in most of their encounters against the Lakers, Bird had an impressive stat line against the purple and gold team. The 3x NBA champion averaged 21.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 10.9 RPG, shooting 50% from the field and 45% from the 3-point line.
The two legends used each other as a benchmark, with Bird admitting he used Magic as a crutch to push himself forward.
“I had to have him there for some reason,” Bird said. “Like a crutch, somebody I could compare myself to.”
Magic too shared a similar notion,
“That’s why we hated each other. We knew we were mirrors of each other,” Johnson said.
“Thank you for pushing me.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 25, 2019
The two legends had a decorated NBA career, winning multiple championships and MVPs. Bird and Magic are tied, with 9 All-NBA First Team selections. Both share similar All-Star appearances (12) and regular-season MVP awards (3).
Though the two superstars were at loggerheads on the court, they shared immense respect for each other outside the hardwood. Both Bird and Magic fed off each other’s energy to maximize their performances.