Magic Johnson says that he became friends with Larry Bird after the latter had invited him over for lunch with his mom.
Perhaps the most sought after ‘phenomenon’ that takes place in any sporting league is the development of a rivalry between two teams/players at the highest level in that league.
The NBA is no stranger to rivalries as it has seen its fair share over the 70+ years since its inception. Rivalries such as Bill Russell vs Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan vs the Detroit Pistons, and the Cavs against the Warriors help drive ticket sales to all-time highs.
However, no rivalry was quite like the one Magic Johnson shared with Larry Bird throughout the entirety of the 1980s.
Having met in 1979, on the biggest stage college basketball could provide, Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans faced off against Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores for the NCAA championship. The Spartans would beat the Sycamores 75-64, giving Magic an NCAA title before declaring for the draft alongside Bird.
Magic Johnson reveals the reasoning behind befriending Larry Bird
Unknown to both Magic and Larry at the time of their duel in 1979, the two would go on to have some of the most storied battles in NBA history. Magic Johnson and his Lakers would meet Larry Bird’s Celtics in the NBA Finals thrice in the 80s, with the Lakers besting them 2-1.
The nature of Magic and Bird’s relationship up until 1985 would purely be based off an innate sense of competitiveness when on the court. Johnson would go as far as saying that he hated Bird. However, on a recent appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the 5x champ chronicles what led to him befriending Bird.
“We shot for bout 3 hours and they say it’s lunchtime. I’m going to my trailer to have lunch and Bird turns to me and says, ‘Magic, my mom has prepared lunch for us at the house.’ When he threw his mom in there, you know I can’t say no.”
“Now we had never really broken bread so I went to his house and his mother was bringing out all the food and finally she said to Larry, ‘Did you tell him yet?’ Larry said, ‘No, you tell him.’ She turned around and said, ‘Magic, you’re my favorite basketball player.’ That broke the ice and we became friends right after that and we’ve been great friends even today and I love that man.”
The commercial they were shooting was for Converse, which was shot right after the Lakers had bested the Celtics in the 1985 NBA Finals. It truly is a testament to Larry Bird’s character for having invited someone who just beat him, to his home.