For Celtics legend Larry Bird, teaming up with Magic Johnson was never an option. “I enjoyed competing against Magic,” Bird said. “I really did, and I think he would say the same thing. Even though we were pretty good friends, once you step on that court, it was all out.“
Even though Magic was 2-1 in the Finals against Bird, it never crossed Larry’s mind to join forces with the one who deprived him of two NBA championships. Their rivalry meant more to the Hall of Fame forward, and that was something he was never willing to sacrifice.
He had a fantastic career, won a lot of championships, but when I look back through all that, I had more enjoyment beating him than I’ve ever had beating anybody. If I didn’t have that, other than a couple of championships, you know, what is it? We started in college; this goes way back.Larry Bird, NBA Europe
The Lakers and the Celtics were battling back in the ’60s. This was just a carryover, and man, was it fun. It was great.Larry Bird, NBA Europe
Today’s NBA landscape is different. Superstars joining forces is the rule, and hearing guys like Damian Lillard say he would never do it is an anomaly. A lot of former players are critical of it — Michael Jordan included. But not Larry Bird, at least to a certain extent.
They gotta do what they gotta do. I understand some of it. It’s a different league, but I don’t think Earvin would’ve wanna play with me, and I don’t think Michael would’ve wanna play with Magic. Obviously, Michael came in the league a little bit later than us, but as far as me and Earvin I can guarantee he would tell you he’d rather play against me than with me.Larry Bird, NBA Europe
It’s not like Bird and Magic didn’t have stacked teams because they did. But a certain competitive framework has always been respected. The problem with today’s NBA is, it seems no such thing exists anymore.
The LeBron-induced player empowerment allowed everyone to do whatever they want. And to a certain extent, that’s great. Players should have the freedom to control their own destiny. But that should never be done at the expense of competitiveness.
Bird and Magic didn’t do it, and we have one of the greatest rivalries in NBA history. I wish more of today’s superstars would do the same thing.