Has the sporting world ever had a greater individual rivalry than Magic vs Bird? Ali vs Frazier? Maybe. Borg vs McEnroe? Not close. Tiger vs Phil? Hardly.
Earvin Johnson and Larry Bird were destined to be rivals. At first glance, the two seemed like polar opposites. One was a black man with an infectious smile, a penchant for “showtime” and a connoisseur of the glitzy Hollywood nightlife, while the other was a white man with a determined scowl, a lunch pail worker’s mentality and a fondness for the simple life. One was “Magic.” The other was the “Hick from French Lick.”
Bird and Magic did share two traits: unbelievable basketball talent and a passion for winning. They both entered the NBA in 1979 and, together, elevated the league and the game.
Today, both men are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Both are considered among the game’s greatest players.
But who was better?
We’ll let you decide. Here’s a statistical comparison of their time in the NBA:
Interestingly, Magic and Bird didn’t like each other during their early NBA years. Their rivalry could be traced to their final season in college, when Magic led Michigan State over Bird and No. 1-ranked Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA national championship game.
Here’s a music video highlighting their rivalry. Anybody remember Loverboy?
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