While the first two recipients of this award—Bill Russell in 2017 and Oscar Robertson in 2018—received the honor individually, the league has decided to simultaneously honor Johnson and Bird, who were linked throughout their playing careers.
The two faced each other in the NCAA finals in 1979 and continued the rivalry in the NBA.
Johnson was a 12-time All-Star, three-time MVP and five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers while also leading the league in assists four times. He is one of five players in league history with more than 10,000 career assists.
Bird was also a 12-time All-Star who won an NBA title three times with the Boston Celtics. He won the MVP award three times and NBA Finals MVP twice, as well as the 1979-80 Rookie of the Year award over Johnson.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, four years ahead of Johnson.
In 1992, the two played together and served as co-captains for the gold-medal-winning United States Olympic team, also known as the Dream Team.
Additionally, both star players continued to make an impact on the NBA after their playing days ended.
Bird spent three seasons as a coach with the Indiana Pacers before becoming an executive. Johnson was the Lakers team president for two-plus years before stepping down in April.
Their impact on the sport is immeasurable, and they will be honored together next month.