Pacers news: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were the stars in one of the most iconic rivalries in the history of professional basketball. In fact, one could argue that they were the main reasons why the league became popular in the 1980s. And even though their careers have ended a long time ago, they’re still highly regarded as two individuals who had a significant impact in the rise of the NBA.
Before Bird and Johnson came into the NBA, there weren’t a lot of people who were invested in watching the games. Yes, the league had its fanbase, but it wasn’t as large as compared to when Larry Legend and Magic started playing professional basketball. People often say that they helped save the league from bankruptcy.
But Bird believes that he and Magic shouldn’t get all the credit in terms of turning the NBA’s fortunes around.
“It’s funny, all through my career they always say, ‘You helped save the NBA.’ But there’s a lot of people who helped save this NBA, it didn’t start with us. Maybe we helped in some way as far as the competition we had in college and going against one another. But I do think we brought a different aspect to the game when we came in.”
When Bird joined the Boston Celtics and Magic was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, they instantly became the faces not only of their respective franchises, but also of the NBA in general. And while Bird acknowledges the contributions of those who came before them, he admits that he and Johnson had a significant impact in the league.
“We both liked to pass the ball. We liked to try to make other guys better. And then we were winners, there was no question about that. Not that there wasn’t a lot of winners before us. But just how we played the game and approached the game, I think, made a big impact throughout the league as far as watching the game.”
Bird added that they paved the way for the future stars of the NBA.
“You got to remember, when I came into the league they had cocaine problems. … So, there was a lot of drug use. I can remember David Stern saying in 1981 he had to give away tickets for people to come to the All-Star Game. But once ’84 hit you could tell it was a shift in the feelings of the NBA and how it was perceived. And then you got to remember Isiah [Thomas] came in, and Jordan came in, and Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone. You can keep naming them. A group of guys that came into our league and just took it to another level.”
In the end, Bird just wants people to him and Magic as major pieces to the puzzle. They did something to improve the league, but its overall growth didn’t start and end with them.
“Well, we were first. But I don’t want to say that we changed anything. But we made people take a look at the NBA the way we played. You got to remember at that time satellite dishes were just coming out and we were getting into more homes. …
And it goes back to college. We played against one another in the finals [in college]. And they say it’s still one of the highest-rated basketball games ever. So, obviously we had an impact. But we didn’t change this league.”
Michael Jordan may be considered as the greatest player of all-time, and LeBron James may be seen as the most influential player in the history of the NBA, but no one can deny the fact that the league wouldn’t be the same without Bird and Magic.
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