“I really do believe that the basketball Gods put two players right where they were supposed to be,” said Michael Cooper about the NBA’s most storied rivalry between Magic and Bird. “When you talk Magic Johnson, and you’re talking basketball, you gotta say Larry Bird. If you’re talking Larry Bird, you gotta say Magic Johnson.”
But what would’ve happened had the basketball Gods made a mistake and put those two in opposite situations? Would Magic have been as successful with the Celtics? Would Larry have had even more championships with the Lakers? That’s when Gilbert Arenas weighed in.
I think Magic could’ve been successful in Boston, I don’t know about Bird.Gilbert Arenas, The No Chill Podcast
Agent Zero’s case is based on fit. Magic in Boston would’ve been seamless, and Larry would’ve had trouble meshing with the Showtime Lakers, assuming that’s the philosophy Pat Riley would’ve used to maximize the strengths of his new, hypothetical franchise player.
You’re talking about a fast group and a half-court player. It would’ve worked because now you got him and Kareem, it could’ve worked. Magic over there is still gonna speed them up, but that’s all it is; who’s gonna figure it out first.Gilbert Arenas, The No Chill Podcast
There’s no question both of them would’ve been able to figure it out. It’s just a matter of who would’ve done it better and whether that would’ve been a better situation compared to where the basketball Gods have actually put them.
Bird is Bird, and everyone is filling in. Magic is filling in the spots, so there he gets to make those guys a little bit better, a little bit flashier, so it changes the dynamic. But you gotta remember, you’re still talking about two masterminds. They’d figure it out because you’re gonna adjust to their skill level, but if Bird’s here, you guys are not as fast.Gilbert Arenas, The No Chill Podcast
Having Bird with the Lakers would’ve changed the Showtime era as we know it. Not necessarily in terms of success, but in terms of the style of basketball they’ve embodied. The same can be said about the Celtics from the ’80s. How would the switch affect the teams’ banners count — it’s hard to say. But it’s safe to say the path there would’ve been different for both organizations.
So all we can do is thank the basketball Gods for not making this mistake. It resulted in an NBA rivalry for the ages, and nothing gets better than that.