“I was thinking about him when I went to sleep” – Magic Johnson revealed he was terrified of Larry Bird.

The Lakers icon explained his mentality before confronting Larry’s Celtics.

Rivals motivate each other to do their best. They sometimes drive each other to insomnia. This was the situation with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who both experienced sleeplessness the night before their matchup. It didn’t matter whether it was the NBA Finals or a regular-season game. When the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics faced off in the 1980s, Bird and Johnson understood they had to perform at their peak.

Long, sleepless nights. During their joint conversation with David Letterman, the Detroit native claimed to having several restless nights before facing Larry Legend. Magic could not relax as he imagined the Lakers’ moves and the Celtics’ counterattack. The Purple and Gold icon knew he had to play flawlessly to defeat Bird’s C’s. “I knew Larry could beat me if I made mistakes, if we didn’t play our best game,” Magic recalled. “Larry made me have sleepless nights. He did. I was terrified and knew he could beat me. So that’s what a great player does to you when you’re up against them. He was brilliant, but so were the Celtics.

I wish he was thinking about me when he went to sleep, just as I was thinking about him when I went to sleep. “That was for sure,” Johnson said. It may have seemed comical, but the five-time NBA champion was telling the truth. If he defeated Larry and the Celtics, he would know they were the best team in the world. It was that simple. However, the path to triumph was not easy. To paraphrase Johnson, blinking once could lose them the game, and the Detroit native was always on watch.

What do the statistics reveal? Numbers show that Magic has faced Bird 22 times in the NBA and has a 22-15 record. Johnson averaged 20.5 points in those duels, which is slightly higher than his lifetime average of 19.5. The Lakers playmaker also logged 12.5 assists per game versus Larry’s celtics, in contrast to his career average of 11.2 dimes per game.

The improvements may appear minor, but they are significant in the end. Magic’s Lakers faced Bird’s Celtics three times in the NBA Finals, and the Purple and Gold won two rings. This made all the restless nights worthwhile. The history books would have been different if Johnson had taken Larry’s abilities for granted.

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