Bird and Magic
They have and always will be linked together. They both came into the NBA in 1979. They both are considered the best players in the '80s. They had classic battles from their days in college to their numerous NBA Finals appearance.
Possibly, it is the best rivalry in NBA history. In 2009, there are still people who wondered who was better between the two.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson is arguably the best point guard in NBA history and is often considered as one of the top five players of all-time. He led the "Showtime" Lakers to five NBA Championships.
Magic played point guard at an hall of fame level, despite being 6'9". He has the size of forward, the one-on-one skills of a swingman, and the ballhanding ability as an guard. He developed into a very good three point shooter towards the later years of his career.
He was a great perimeter defender, as he averaged 1.9 steals per game, throughout his 13-year career and had five seasons, where he averaged over two steals.
He has amazing court vision, is an incredible passer, and makes his teammates better.
He has averaged 11.2 throughout, which is the best all-time. He has nine seasons where he averaged at least 10 assists per game. His lowest average, he had in a assists in a seasons is 6.9, which was in his last season in the NBA, when he played power forward.
He's famous for his game six NBA finals performance, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar couldn't play, he played guard, forward, and center at different times of the game. He had 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in the game.
Larry Bird is perhaps the best small forward of all-time and is also often considered as one of the top five players of all-time. He led the Boston Celtics to three NBA Championships.
Bird is a versatile wing man. He's a sharpshooter, an excellent playmaker, very good rebounder, and one of the best players ever in the clutch.
He is one of the best shooters of all-time. He has a .496 career field goal percentage, .376 career three percentage, and a .886 free throw percentage.
He's also a great perimeter defender who has averaged 1.7 steals per game over the course of his career. He was an excellent playmaker for a wingman. He averaged 6.3 assists per game, throughout his career. He made his teammates better, not just because of his own ability but because of his will to win.
Bird was a very good rebounder. You expect a great frontcourt player to be a good rebounder, but it's rare for a player who played small forward for most of his career to averaged 10 rebounds a game over the course of his career. Larry the "legend" was one of the few to do so.
Magic is a former three-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, three-time finals MVP, was named to nine All NBA First Teams, and one All NBA Second Team.
Bird is a former three-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, two-time finals MVP, was named to nine All NBA First Teams, one All NBA Second Team, and three-time NBA All Defensive Second Team.
That's just their career statistics and achievements. I didn't even mention their rivalry or their championship teams that ruled the 80's.
Magic had the ability to score 20-22 points, dished out 12-14 assists, and grab seven to eight rebounds consistently in almost every game.
Bird had the ability to score 25-30 points, dished out five to seven assists, and grabbed nine to eleven rebounds consistently in almost every game.
Let's take a look at how each player played, when they saw each other in the NBA finals.
1984 NBA Finals
Bird and the Celtics won in seven games.
Bird averaged 27.4 points on .484 shooting and 14 rebounds per game in the series. Magic, on the other hand, made crucial errors in the clutch during the series. In game two, Magic couldn't get a shot off before the final buzzer as they lost game.
In game four, Magic had the ball stolen from him by Robert Parish and missed two free throws that would have won the game for the Lakers, all in the final minute of the game.
And in game seven, also in the final minute with the Lakers down by three, Dennis Johnson stole the ball from Magic. Despite his play in the clutch, Magic averaged 18.0 points on .560 shooting, 13.6 assists, and 7.7 rebounds.
1985 NBA Finals
Magic and the Lakers won in six games. Magic averaged 18.3 on .494 shooting, 14.0 assists, and 6.8 rebounds. Bird averaged 23.8 points on .449 shooting, 8.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists.
1987 NBA Finals
Magic and the Lakers won in six games. Magic averaged 26.2 points on .541 shooting, 13.0 assists, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.33 steals. In game four, Magic nailed a game winning hook shot over both Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
Bird averaged 24.2 points on .445 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, despite the Celtics losing in the NBA Finals.
Just like Duncan or Shaq has appeared in every finals this decade with exception of last year, Magic or Bird has appeared in every finals in the '80s.
These are great superstars that will be forever two of the best players ever to play in the NBA. I would love to build my team around any of the two players in their prime.
It's disrespectful to them to even compare these two with likes of LeBron and Kobe. LeBron and Kobe are great players, but they are no Magic and Bird.
I don't know who's better. They are so close, and it's hard to choose between the two, since I never seen either of them play live.