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“All these guys out here just making all this money, they owe Magic and Larry a lot of kudos.” — Byron Scott on how Magic Johnson and Larry Bird saved the NBA

Scott brought up a point most people don't know. Out of all the teams in the NBA back then, there were “maybe four teams that were making money.”
Larry Bird shares why he never wanted to join other superteams in the NBA

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

Throughout time, there have been many stories about how Magic Johnson and Larry Bird changed the NBA in the '80s. They were responsible for the rebirth of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics rivalry and built their iconic stature that impacted the NBA significantly. Both Johnson and Bird took the game of basketball to new heights and helped develop the league at a time when its destiny was in question.

Without Magic and Larry, players wouldn't be making millions

Because Johnson and Bird endeared basketball fans worldwide, the NBA's income boomed under David Stern's leadership. The average player salary in 1980 was around $180,000, which escalated to $900,000 by the end of the decade. Thanks to Magic and Larry, people invested their time, money, and effort into watching more games — which according to former Laker Byron Scott, saved the NBA during its declining years.

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Those two guys, Magic Johnson (and) Larry Bird ,saved the NBA. Really saved the NBA from really going under because at that particular point it was only maybe four teams that were making money out of, at that time there might have been 22 or 24 teams in the league and these two guys came along and they just kind of saved the NBA. So, all these guys out here just making all this money, they owe Magic and Larry Bird a lot of kudos,Scott said on his podcast called "The Byron Scott podcast."

Aside from Johnson and Bird, Stern deserves just as much credit for the way he maximized and marketed the rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics in the 80s. Stern highlighted Magic and Larry's skillsets (passing, playmaking, transition offense, etc.) instead of just focusing on their abilities to score, which depicted a pure and whole different angle of appreciating the sport.

The NBA peaked in the 80s and grew even more in the 90s

As Scott mentioned, both Magic and Larry saved the NBA because prior to the 80s, the league had fallen into an era of cocaine abuse, bad reputation, and non-televised games. It was so detrimental that the 1978 and 1979 NBA Finals weren't even nationally televised. But thankfully, this was turned around in the 80s when the Showtime Lakers and Celtics brought a whole new dynamic to the league.

Then by the 90s, the game was brought to even greater heights thanks to Michael Jordan, who morphed into the greatest basketball player of all time. It helped that Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls, which attracted more fans and viewers outside of Los Angeles and Boston. 

Johnson, Bird, and Jordan's legendary career paths prove that it only takes one player to change the whole NBA landscape for good. 

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