When Larry Bird and Magic Johnson came into the NBA back in 1979, they immediately left an impact that is still to this day one of the best storylines in NBA history. They rejuvenated the old rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, while at the same time saving the NBA after catastrophic ratings and low popularity throughout the ’70s. Because of that, both Magic and Bird are always mentioned in the GOAT conversations and rightfully so. They dominated the NBA for over a decade, and one of the debates that remain active to this day is who was better between the two legends.
Both Bird and Magic overachieved in what they did during their careers, and in all those conversations on who is better, it really comes down to personal preferences. That is the reason why it’s always great to hear former NBA players giving their opinion on these types of debates. Olden Polynice is one of those former players who had the opportunity to compete against both Magic and Bird. In an interview for the ‘In The Zone’ show, Polynice said he loved Magic and everything he did, but in his, mind Bird was a better player.
Polynice says there were multiple occasions where Bird left a strong impression on him, taking over games and scoring buckets in every possible and impossible way. Magic’s role on the Lakers was mostly directed toward him being a facilitator while Bird could do the same thing equally good while at the same time scoring 30 points without breaking a sweat.
I’m going to give you Olden Polynice take on this. Magic yes, showtime and everything else, but I gotta go with Bird. He can get his own shot off. He can involve his teammates. Basically, what Magic was able to do plus be an offensive treat all the way up to the three-point line. That is an incredible asset. They are pretty much the same size, they were both slow. They weren’t leapers. But Bird with that outside three and they were both high IQ guys, but I have to give the edge to Bird.Olden Polynice, via In The Zone
At that time, they were by far the most famous NBA superstars, until Michael Jordan showed up, and there was an inevitable clash among players themselves on who is better between the two. Polynice believes black players were more in favor of Magic, while white players took Bird’s side. For Polynice, the race didn’t play a role at all because if you look back and analyze, there was no question Bird was a superior player.
Black players gravitated towards Magic, and the white players gravitated towards Bird, and the people with sense could see the difference. It wasn’t about color or anything else. It was all about hey this guy here can ball, and that is why we used to look at Bird and think maybe he is not white because he’s got a lot of swag.Olden Polynice, via In The Zone
During their playing days, they achieved everything an NBA player desires to win throughout his career. In the argument on who is better, Magic has an advantage because of his five NBA championships in comparison to the three Bird won with the Celtics. Apart from that, in some regard, you can say Bird was a better player, especially between 1984 and 1987, when he won three straight MVP awards. However, in these types of debates, the only thing that matters are personal preferences when it comes to the playing style or some other things associated with a particular player.