Charles Barkley reiterates the importance of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to NBA basketball during the turmoil of the 1980s.
Larry Bird was an Indiana Hoosier, born and bred. The 23-year-old Hick from French Lick changed the fortunes of the Celtics when he was drafted by them in 1979.
Magic Johnson himself transformed the fortunes of the Lakers from being out of the playoffs to NBA champions during his rookie season. The 6’9″ point guard from Lansing, Michigan had the kind of charm and swagger no one had ever seen in basketball.
Together, the duo built up a rivalry between the 2 most storied franchises in league history. Larry Bird formed a Big 3 alongside Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Magic had his own big 3 with the Captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
While the Celtics played a slow, deliberate style with an emphasis on defense, the Lakers were hell-bent on pushing the tempo through their defense and into transition. The Showtime Lakers are still – by far – the most watchable team in league history.
Charles Barkley pays respect to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson for saving the NBA during the mid-1980s
Charles Barkley was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 5th overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft. The Round Mound of Rebound has seen it all when it comes to the evolution of NBA salaries.
When Chuck was in high school, the highest-paid players in the league earned less that $1 million annually. There’s been a sea change in the NBA’s finances since the 1980s, but Charles Barkley believes that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson initiated it all:
“The 2 most important NBA figures are Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Because they saved the NBA. People forget – my first year in the NBA was the NBA’s first year. Remember, the NBA was too black, too drug- addicted. The average NBA salary was only $250,000.”
“That was in 1984-85. And then Magic and Bird, came along and changed everything. I can never thank those 2 guys enough, which is awesome. But you can’t tell the NBA story without those guys.”
“And when you kept KD, LeBron, Dirk – all those guys kept going, they continued the greatness. Because you have to have greatness for your product to flourish.”