Magic Johnson says that being compared to Larry Bird and having him be labeled as being better than him used to annoy and irk him.
It’s quite nearly impossible to talk about Magic Johnson and his time in the NBA and not have Larry Bird come up somewhere in that conversation. The two Lakers and Celtics legends met thrice in the Finals in a span of 4 seasons, with Bird taking the first meeting in 1984. The Lakers would bounce back against the Celts in 1985 and 1987.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird can be attributed with revitalizing the NBA in a way that reached every nook and craney of the United States. Michael Jordan’s arrival in the league further globalized the sport, taking it to heights that were never thought to be possible.
Due to the fact that Magic and Bird had been duking it out since their days in college (Michigan State vs the Indiana State Sycamores in 1979), their rivalry continued well into their years as a professional. As any rivalry does, it soon brought about comparisons between the two.
Magic Johnson hated being compared to Larry Bird during his earlier days in the NBA.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did not play the same position nor did they have a similar playstyle. Sure, both superstars were incredibly gifted passers but in terms of generating offense and orchestrating one, the two could not be further apart in what was needed of them when on the court.
Nevertheless, their greatness surpassed the mere boundary of ‘positions’ in basketball as they were continually compared to one another. Come to find put later on and Magic Johnson apparently hated being compared to Bird during his earlier days in the league.
“I hated what was being said like Larry was better than me. I’m just a guy that can control the game. My first 4-5 years that bothered me a lot. I didn’t tell nobody that it bothered me but it did,” said Johnson.
Bird is also quoted as saying that he had a problem with Magic ‘the basketball player’ and that it was something he couldn’t really speak on. It’s safe to say that amidst the trips to Larry’s mom’s house for dinner together, the two remained competitive on the court.