The Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers final has put me in a sentimental mood. Though I grew up a Knicks fan, and reluctantly root for this embarrassing franchise, I always enjoyed the fierce rivalry between the two most storied franchises in NBA history.
Watching Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson go head-to-head virtually every year during the 1980s was something to look forward to if you loved team basketball. Not only were the Celtics and the Lakers great teams, they were fun to watch and fundamentally sound.
None of the ballplayers today, not even Kobe and LeBron, have the great all-around game of Bird and Magic in terms of making the players around them better with their beautiful passing.
To me, they were the two best players I have ever seen. And Magic Johnson, overall, has been the best.
Sorry, Michael Jordan. You were a great defender and shooter, but your style ruined the game. Your play opened an era where players like Kobe and LeBron,
"want to be like Mike." Players who want to be the stars of their team and league, ones who worry about themselves first, who worry about their shoe contracts.
Watching Magic Johnson playing center for the Lakers in place of an injured Kareem Abdul Jabaar, scoring 40 points against Darryl Dawkins and Cauldwell Jones in his rookie season of 1980, impressed me greatly. He could have played any position on the floor.
Michael Jordan was great: a great showoff. Always mugging for the camera, always calling attention to himself. Magic Johnson was all about the team. His smile was effervescent. I simply enjoy watching him play, and Bird as well.
Obviously, we know the whole point of basketball is to get that light brown ball into the hoop. Jordan did that well. He hit the big shot in many important games. His competitiveness was legendary. He was even unselfish when he needed to be and dished to the open man when he was double covered. But watching the boring Bulls play and his style of basketball, to me, took away from his supposed greatness.
The true beauty of the game is when the ball is being passed around. The beauty of the shot. To me Johnson and Bird were artists.
I even like Bernard King better than Jordan. King who was great with mid-range jumpers, a lost art nowadays, was grace in motion. The young Stephen Curry of Davidson reminds me a lot of King. Neither are slam dunk or three-point specialists, but are comfortable with the mid-range shots and fancy layups. I look forward to seeing Curry in the NBA someday; perhaps next season.
The current Lakers-Celtics rivalry is somewhat interesting. Traditionally, I have rooted for the Lakers as you could probably tell, against Boston, but this time around I'm rooting for the green and white. Their players this time are more likable, particularly Paul Pierce. However, even this series, despite all its history, lacks the energy and charisma of those rivalries in the 1980s.
I can't exactly put my finger on it, but perhaps what's lacking in this best-of-seven match up is a little "Magic."
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