Feature

When Sports Transcend and Lift Us All

With the NBA season fast approaching, do yourself a favor and rent Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, from the folks at HBO.

You don’t need to be a basketball fan to appreciate the legacy and intertwined paths of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird.

One black. One white. One from the urban Midwestern hub of Lansing, Michigan. The other from the sleepy remote traintrack town of French Lick, Indiana. One gregarious and eager to dominate the spotlight. The other could not have been more shy and socially awkward. One from a large family that stuck together and pulled for one another. The other from a large family that became fractured and left heartbroken from suicide.

But both absolutely brilliant on the basketball court, leading their respective teams (and cities) to championships and memories that have defined not only their legacies but the lives of so many who were fortunate enough to either play alongside them or simply watch and admire the craftsmanship.

The ‘Magic’ Johnson led L.A. Lakers and the Larry Bird led Boston Celtics still hold up as the best the sports world has ever offered up in terms of pure drama and rivalry, from their 1979 NCAA championship contest that, to this day, is still the number one rated Final telecast ever, to their annual clashes in the NBA Finals.

Sports mean so much to so many for a wide variety of reasons. Many of the things we love about the games we follow, the games we get up and cheer for and even break down and cry over, are wrapped up in the amazing story of these two giants. I met the Magic man once outside a club on Sunset Boulevard. I felt like I was ten years old again, staring up at a demigod who simply smiled down at me, not at all put off by my adoration. I’ve never met Larry Bird, but that’s probably just as well. I’m a Laker fan.

So bring on the new season and bring on another championship for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Rumor has it the Celtics acquired a free agent center in the offseason. Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal.

Kobe v Shaq? Sounds like good theatre.

But nothing will ever compare to Magic & Bird.

One thought on “When Sports Transcend and Lift Us All

  1. Love the title:”When Sports Transcend and Lift Us All” because I think physical achievement and appreciation for that achievement is appreciated world wide and across all cultures. It is why different cultures have a mythology around a “Hercules-type” figure. A supreme athlete elevates our souls because at certain moments we become that Hercules thru the achieved feats of those athletic “gods”.

    One of my favorite ideas was expressed in a not-so-good movie, “Vision Quest”, where the old guy is telling about the importance of sport and athletic achievement and how, for him, watching Pele made him a better person…Pele lifted him closer to god and heaven. Pele made him see and believe that since Pele was human and he, the old man, was human and therefore Pele pulled that old man up with him when he soared higher than the old man could soar. I love that notion and think it is likely a universal element in all souls.

    It is also why I bristle when collegiate athletes are derided as “not smart enough”…as if academics were the only relevant pursuit of young collegians. Some college students excel at the natural sciences. Others in the arts and humanities. I think excellence in athletics should also be regarded highly. It all “Transcends & Lifts Us Up”

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