Final Scene: Magic vs. Bird

One of basketball’s greatest rivalries began with the NCAA championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, which captured the attention of the nation. For now, the highlights come from their camaraderie.


Whether Dr. James Naismith approves of it or not, the modern game of basketball began on March 26, 1979. The plot pitted Black against White. Hick vs. Slick Indiana State vs. Michigan State Bird vs Magic. After 45 years, the most watched collegiate basketball match in history has been immortalized in films, books, and an everlasting belief that it revitalized March Madness and preserved the NBA. All accurate.


The enduring bond between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird—two strangers who happened to cross paths on a Monday night and demonstrated that opposites can be equals—is a study in human nature and racial relations. Those who witnessed it in person recall their location. It might benefit from a history lesson for those who can only view it on YouTube.

While Magic’s No. 3 Michigan State Spartans were college basketball’s Globetrotters, Bird’s No. 1 Indiana State Sycamores were the sport’s equivalent of the movie “Hoosiers.” Anyone who watched the build-up knew that this national championship game was essential viewing for both the sociology and the basketball.


While the entire country watched the 1979 championship game on NBC, which received an unprecedented 24.1 rating, Indiana State, who was losing by six points with ten minutes remaining, managed to hang on. But in MSU’s 75-64 triumph, Bird never had his Jimmy Chitwood “I’ll make it” moment and appeared jealous of Magic’s no-look passes. They have no affection for one another.

On their route to the NBA, a hilarious incident occurred: Magic was selected by the Lakers, while Bird was selected by the opposing Celtics. Because games were tape-delayed during their debut season, Brent Musburger was unable to even declare, “You are looking live at the NBA Finals.” Talk about a must-see, though. When Magic’s Lakers played Bird’s Celtics three times in the 1980s, the nation was divided largely along racial lines, and the Finals were on television.


Former All-Star and assistant coach for the Bucks Vin Baker said he “changed the NBA.” “Lawrence-Magic was the only thing in sports.”


Behind the scenes, Magic and Bird had filmed a French Lick Converse ad from the mid-1980s, with Magic being invited inside by Bird’s mother, Georgia. The two came to the realization that they were both working class, selfless, and identical. Magic started leaving Bird’s family tickets for games in Los Angeles, and Bird would do the same for Magic in Boston. An upset Bird had to be persuaded to play the following night after learning that Magic had HIV in 1991, and they threw a no-look pass in Magic’s honor. Magic urged the older Bird to play beside him when he joined the Dream Team in 1992. In essence, Magic answered, “Only if Larry joins us,” in response to Newsweek magazine’s request for him and Michael Jordan to be on the cover. Bird and magic came as a package deal.

Significantly, they gave each other hugs,” Baker remarked. “Having this Black-White rivalry helped ease tension and people’s minds like, ‘Oh, they’re friends?'” while we were emerging from segregation.


The lesson is in how enraged rivals transformed a tense college championship game into a friendship that is impossible to discuss without the other. Not only does Magic still watch that 1979 game on his private aircraft because he won that evening, but he also does so because he believes that honoring Bird will never grow old.


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