Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird

Capital Region and other basketball fans from around the world remember the great NBA rivalry of the 1980s.  The Los Angeles Lakers won five NBA titles and the Boston Celtics three.  Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played huge roles on these championship teams.  Johnson led the Lakers to an NBA title his rookie season.  Johnson’s ability to penetrate and create, his competitive spirit, and his unique talents, made him a franchise player.  The Celtics rolled to a 61-20 record in Bird’s first year, and Boston fans were buzzing about a brand of basketball similar to the great Red Auerbach squads of the 1960s.  A blue collar player with a strong work ethic, Bird was a winner from the first day  he stepped onto the hardwoods of the Boston Garden.  His 3-point shooting, rebounding, shot-blocking, and late-game heroics made Bird the heart and soul of the Celtic teams of the 1980s.  The Magic-Bird rivalry heated up in the mid-1980s, and from 1984 to 1989, Johnson or Bird won the the MVP award five times.  During this span of time, Johnson improved his defense and increased his scoring average to over 20 points per game.  At this stage, Johnson could be rated a shade better than Bird, and they both ranked among the top players in basketball.  Bird was a more productive scorer, but Johnson was quicker, he was a great slasher, and he had a more effective all-around game.  The greatness of these two athletes and their places among the all-time greats is obvious to basketball fans across the land.  But just who was the better of the two is bound to be debated in bars, on street corners, and everywhere else for decades to come.

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