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.