One of the greatest aspects of the NBA are the rivalries, be it between teams or players or even conferences. The NBA has been blessed with some fierce rivalries that have brought out the best of both teams, a strong, shared competitive spirit that creates aggression and intensity but short of malice. But maybe the best thing about rivalries is that at the end of the day, both sides have a begrudging but undoubtedly amount of respect for each other.
How did Larry Bird win Rookie of the Year over Magic? The 1979-80 NBA season was the rookie season for Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and Earvin “Magic” Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. Bird averaged 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Magic averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists for the Lakers. Both players made the All-NBA Rookie Team and were selected for the NBA All-Star Game. Bird won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award over Magic, with a landslide win of 63-3 in the voting, the consensus being that Bird’s rookie season was better than Magic’s.
In the postseason Bird’s Celtics would lose in the second round to Philadelphia, while Magic would go on to win the NBA title and claim NBA FInals MVP in his Rookie year.
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What was Larry Bird’s rookie season like?
Bird was actually drafted a year before he played, but decided to play one last year in college (where he lost in the finals to Magic, the start of their rivalry). He joined a Boston Celtics team that won 29 games in the previous season, and in a magical turnaround, led them to win an astounding 61 games, more than double from the season prior. The Celtics finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, and Bird was selected to the NBA All-Star Game and the All-Rookie NBA Team, as well as winning Rookie of the Year honors. Bird averaged 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. In the postseason, Bird and the Celtics made it to the Conference Finals before bowing out against the Philadelphia 76ers.
What was Magic Johnson’s rookie season like?
Magic was coming off an NCAA championship over his now-rival Bird when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite having the size of a forward, Johnson was played as a point guard and impressed alongside star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic led the Lakers to a 60-22 record for the season, earning spots in the NBA All-Star Game and the All-Rookie NBA Team. He averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 2.4 steals per game. The Lakers matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals, which is when Magic put up an all-time performance in Game 6, with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals while playing in place of the injured Kareem as a center. He won an NBA championship and the NBA Finals MVP award all in his rookie year.
Why were Bird and Magic rivals?
The rivalry started in the NCAA championship, where Magic’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State team. Both players were highly lauded coming into the league and got drafted to two historic franchises in the Lakers and the Celtics, who were already rivals due to their stars of the previous generation, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, respectively. Moreso, Bird and Magic were pit against each other by many due to their racial and cultural differences: Bird was white and from a blue-collar background, while Magic was black and very flashy and gregarious. Both players were seen as faces of the cities they played in, and that added even more depth to the on-court rivalry (Bird and Magic were fierce rivals but good friends, and they did not intentionally try to play up to the ideologies the general public attached to them).
Who had the better NBA career, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson?
Trying to establish who had the better NBA career is especially tough when comparing players with enormous pedigrees such as Bird and Magic. Both had Hall of Fame NBA careers and are generally considered top-10 NBA players of all time by most experts and fans. Magic has a slight edge over Bird on many rankings; for example, ESPN ranked Magic #4 and Bird #7 when ranking the players in the NBA 75 list. While these lists are subjective, they are mostly based on accolades and other statistics, which will be explored now.
Both Bird and Magic were selected to 9 All-NBA First Teams and 12 NBA All-Star Games. Both players also won 3 MVP awards, with Bird winning all 3 consecutively in an extremely impressive manner. Post-season success is where the two separate; Magic won 5 NBA championships and 3 NBA Finals MVP awards, while Bird won 3 NBA championships and 2 NBA Finals MVP awards.
While there is a clear gap there, many argue that Magic had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, considered a top-5 player of all time, as a teammate for all of his titles, while Bird, despite having Hall of Fame teammates, had no one quite of Kareem’s caliber as a sidekick. In terms of talent, there’s not a clear winner, although scales may tip in Bird’s favor: Magic was the more athletic player with better passing and playmaking, while Bird was a great scorer and shooter and a great defender as well.
The Larry Bird and Magic Johnson rivalry may be the best rivalry between players the NBA has ever seen. What makes that rivalry so lovable is that both players hold the other in high regard, and there’s no bad blood there that allows both to look back on the rivalry fondly. In the beginning of their careers, the rivalry was still blossoming, and while Magic may have won in college, Bird had the superior rookie campaign that saw him take home the 1979 Rookie of the Year Award. Magic did have the last laugh that season, winning an NBA title while also taking home the NBA Finals MVP in one of the greatest playoff performances of all time. Much to the delight of NBA fans, this type of back-and-forth was quite common throughout the remainder of the storied Bird-Magic rivalry.