At the beginning of their careers, Larry Bird and Earvin"Magic" Johnson weren't exactly best friends. The rivalry between the Lakers and Boston was fierce and they both were regarded as the best players in the league.
However, the two superstars did get close and it all began in French Lick, Indiana on a set of a sneaker commercial.
“I did not want to go to Indiana,” Johnson said of the 1986 encounter. “I was going to his home, too. I protested.”
Their rivalry lasted for more than a decade, and during that time Magic won five NBA championships along with the 1979 NCAA championship and Larry won three championships.
They were the most exciting basketball players of their generation and often regarded as the duo who saved the NBA long before MJ became the ultimate superstar in the league.
The pair shot the first part of the Converse commercial, and afterward, it was time for lunch. Magic wanted to head to his trailer, but instead, Larry invited his arch-rival into his house.
Larry’s mom was waiting with food – and a big hug. “His mom greeted me on the porch,” Johnson said. “It was a ‘Mom Bird’ hug like my mom would hug me. “I got to know Larry the man that day, and he got to know Earvin.”
They bonded during that day but also made a great commercial. The 1986 commercial shows Magic roll up in a limo and Larry was waiting in knee-high socks, short shorts, and new Converse shoes.
“Hey Magic, show me what you got!” Bird says, and the game begins.
The respect these two have for each other exists still to this day. After Magic announced he was HIV positive in 1991, Larry Bird was one of the first persons he called to inform him about his condition. Bird said “that made him not want to play that night,”
But Johnson’s still around – and so is Bird, two old friends, a testament to competition and respect realized in French Lick and now on Broadway.