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Iconic ’80s Sports Moments: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – The NBA’s Greatest Players of the Decade

The 1980s were a defining decade for the National Basketball Association (NBA). With emerging stars like Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Hakeem Olajuwon, it was a time of great talent and competition. However, two players stood out among the rest: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. These legends not only dominated the game of basketball, but their rivalry and friendship captured the hearts of fans across the country. In this article, we’ll look at some of the iconic ’80s sports moments featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the NBA’s greatest players of the decade.

Their Rivalry

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rivalry is one of the most famous in sports history. It began in college when they first played against each other in the 1979 NCAA Championship game. Magic’s Michigan State team beat Bird’s Indiana State team, but the stage was set for a legendary showdown in the NBA.

Their rivalry reached new heights in the 1984 NBA Finals when Bird’s Boston Celtics faced off against Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers. The series was tied 2-2, but in Game 5, Bird famously stole an inbound pass and dished it to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup. The Celtics went on to win the series in seven games, and Bird was named Finals MVP.

The following year, it was Magic’s turn for redemption. In the 1985 NBA Finals, the Lakers faced the Celtics once again. With the series tied 2-2, Magic put on a historic performance in Game 6. He played every position on the court, scoring 42 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists. The Lakers won the game and the championship, and Magic was named Finals MVP.

Their Friendship

Despite their intense rivalry on the court, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were actually close friends off the court. They even starred in a Converse commercial together, cementing their iconic friendship.

Their friendship was put to the test in 1991 when Magic announced that he had contracted HIV and would be retiring from the NBA. Bird, along with other NBA stars, rallied around Magic in support. They played together on the 1992 Dream Team, further solidifying their bond.

In 2010, HBO released a documentary about their relationship called “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals.” In the documentary, Bird spoke about his admiration for Magic, saying “When I think of basketball, I think of Magic Johnson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

Individual Achievements

Although they were primarily known for their rivalry, both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had impressive individual careers.

Bird won three NBA Championships with the Celtics in 1981, 1984, and 1986. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1980 and won three consecutive NBA MVP awards from 1984-1986. He was also a 12-time NBA All-Star and was named to the All-NBA First Team nine times.

Magic won five NBA Championships with the Lakers in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988. He was named NBA Finals MVP three times and NBA MVP three times. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star and was named to the All-NBA First Team nine times.


Larry Bird and Magic Johnson will forever be remembered as the NBA’s greatest players of the 1980s. Their rivalry and friendship captivated fans across the country and helped to propel basketball into the mainstream. Whether it was Bird’s game-winning steal or Magic’s historic performance in Game 6 of the 1985 NBA Finals, their iconic ’80s sports moments will always hold a special place in basketball history.

So, there you have it – a look back at the legendary careers of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Whether you’re a die-hard basketball fan or just someone who appreciates a good sports rivalry, there’s no denying the impact that these two players had on the game.