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Magic Johnson is still not happy that Larry Bird won Rookie of the Year over him

It's not that he lost - Magic is frustrated with the lopsided nature of Bird's win.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson and Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird's rivalry was born in college and moved on to the NBA. Both these two legends played their first game in 1979 and displayed their brilliance as early as their first season. The Los Angeles Lakers knew they had their guy and future in Johnson, and so did the Boston Celtics with Bird. From the beginning, it was easy to assume that it was only a matter of time before these two cornerstone players led their corresponding teams to a championship.

However, before battling each other for championships, the Rookie of the Year award spearheaded the matchup between Johnson and Bird. The trophy ended up in Bird's hands by the end of the season as he won by a landslide. And until this very day, Magic admits that it still doesn't sit right with him.

Johnson eventually ended up with the bragging rights.

What irks Johnson the most is not the fact that he lost the award to Bird (who rightfully deserved it) but how the voting results turned out. Out of 62 votes, Johnson only received 2, which was why the Celtic won it in a lopsided fashion. It irked Johnson a little extra because this was the same year when he led the Lakers to a championship in 1980 and won the Finals MVP — something a rookie has never done in NBA history until this very day.

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"It was 60 to 2. I hate to say that too, but I gotta say that on TV. I was so pissed, man, I was so mad. 2 votes, but I became the first Rookie in NBA history to be named Finals MVP. I was only the third dude ever in NBA history to go from the college championship to the NBA Finals championship, and I get like 2 votes? Those 2 votes weren't even from 2 L.A. dudes. I'm like, 'Okay, he's not that much better than me. Not 60-2' but okay, I took it," Johnson recently admitted on the "Club Shay Shay' podcast.

At the very least, Johnson ended up with the most bragging rights because, after all, winning a championship and the Finals MVP as a rookie weighs more than the Rookie of the Year trophy itself. What's ironic about this storyline is that Bird was just as jealous of Johnson after the latter won his first championship as a rookie.

The data suggest that Bird deserved the ROTY award.

In defense of all those 60 voters who chose Bird over Johnson for the Rookie of the Year award, the data backs their decision up. In the 1979-1980 NBA season, Bird averaged 21.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 10.4 rebounds a game in 82 games. The Celtics' record at that time was 61-21, but they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals — the same Sixers team Johnson and the Lakers defeated in 6 games.

Meanwhile, before winning the championship and Finals MVP, Johnson averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game in the 77 games he played. However, it's as important to point out that Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as his teammate during his rookie year, who was perceived as one of the best big men in the game then.

Nevertheless, it was only right that Johnson and Bird had their corresponding achievements in their first year in the league. That surely did depict what was yet to come and what eventually turned into one of the greatest superstar rivalries in sports history - one many believed saved the NBA.

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