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“Magic Johnson was crying and boo-hooing; we never saw him fail”: Isiah Thomas recalled being with the Lakers superstar following heartbreaking loss to Larry Bird and the Celtics

Samir Mehdi
|Fri Apr 01 2022


Isiah Thomas remembers having to sit with Mark Aguirre to console Magic Johnson after the Lakers loss to the Celtics in the 1984 Finals. 

David Stern should be credited more than he is for the globalization of the NBA. He knew that promoting Magic Johnson and Larry Bird over the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics was the right move to do to generate viewership. He clearly made the right call. 

Make no mistake. The NBA didn’t fabricate a rivalry between the two Goliaths. The rivalry existed well before the two had even made it to the NBA. Their 1979 NCAA championship game saw Johnson’s Spartans take on Bird’s Indiana State, a bout that saw Magic Johnson blow out Bird to claim the title. 

That game was the most viewed basketball until 2016, making it obvious that basketball fans were heavily invested in their rivalry.

Also read: “Magic Johnson and I thought Larry Bird was a black guy!”: When the Laker’s legend former teammate were in disbelief of Bird’s ethnicity given his offensive prowess

Upon making it to the league, Magic and Bird eluded each other in the Playoffs for their first 4 years in the league. The Lakers won two titles (both over the Philadelphia 76ers) and the Celtics beat the Rockets in ‘81. 

1984 was when the two would finally meet. 

Magic Johnson couldn’t get over losing to Larry Bird in 1984. 

A grueling 7-game series in the 1984 NBA Finals saw Larry Bird hoist his second Larry O’Brien trophy and win his first ever Finals MVP at the expense of his arch-rival, Magic Johnson. The Lakers beating the Celtics would’ve definitively put Magic over the edge as he would’ve beaten Bird in college and then would have three titles to Bird’s one.

Also read: “Magic Johnson made love to every girl, in every city in America”: When Donald Sterling was vindictive towards the Lakers legend

Losing a Game 7 hurts more than getting swept as you’re so close but have the opportunity to succeed striped away from you in the waning moments. Magic hadn’t faced such harsh disappointment in his life before. 

He had lost in the NBA Finals once to the Sixers but losing at Boston Garden to Larry Bird was leaps and bounds beyond what that felt like. Isiah Thomas and Mavs star, Mark Aguirre, are close friends of Johnson and they tried to console him in his suite. [at the 1:45 minute mark]

“I’ll never forget that night where he’s laying in bed just boo-hooing and crying. Mark and I were in the room and we’re just sitting there. We had never seen Magic Johnson fail,” said Isiah. 


About the author
Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi

Covering everything from Wilt Chamberlain's offensive goaltending games in 1962 to Ja Morant's points in the paint absurdity in 2022.

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