The rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird is one of the most recognized rivalries in NBA history. The two players battled each other through the course of their careers. It began in college and carried on into their NBA careers. Now, both will be recognized for their legendary careers. Bird and Johnson are set to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 NBA Awards.
Bird and Johnson are two of the most recognized players in the NBA’s history. Their first battle took place in the 1979 NCAA Tournament. Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans faced Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores. The Spartans beat the Sycamores 75-64. Johnson had 25 points and five assists. Bird had 19 points and five steals. This was the first time they faced each other, but far from the last. Their rivalry continued in the NBA.
Bird was the sixth pick of the 1978 draft. The Boston Celtics selected him, but he stayed with the Sycamores for his senior year. Then, he went on to win Rookie of the Year in 1980.
Johnson was the first pick of the 1979 draft. The Lakers drafted the 6-foot-9 guard and won the NBA Championship in the same year. Johnson won Finals MVP after an impressive Game 6. He had 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a game that he played guard, forward and center. He played each position at different times in the game.
The two players crossed paths throughout the years and multiple times in the NBA Finals. They met each other in the 1984 NBA Finals, when the Celtics beat the Lakers in a seven-game series. It was Bird’s second championship of his career. The Lakers returned the favor in next year’s finals and beat the Celtics in a six-game series. Then, they met again in the 1987 NBA Finals. The Lakers won in six games.
Johnson retired in 1991 after his famous announcement about contracting HIV. He came back for 32 games in the 1995-1996 season, but was finished after that. Bird retired in 1992. Johnson won five NBA Championships, three MVPs and three Finals MVPs. Bird won three championships, three MVPs and two Finals MVPs. They are also members of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. Both players accomplished great things and deserve the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award.
The NBA Awards take place on Monday, June 24. The previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award were Bill Russell in 2017 and Oscar Robertson in 2018. Bird and Johnson are in good company as they receive the award. It is a big accomplishment and both players deserve it.
Featured image courtesy of Broadway