Who would you want on your team in their prime: Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? | The Tylt
Who would you want on your team in their prime: Magic Johnson or Larry Bird?
Magic Johnson has a smile that can light up a room, but don’t let it fool you. On the court, Johnson couldn’t wait to tear your head off and laugh about it later. For all his dazzling passes, and friendly demeanor, Magic was a killer who would do anything for a win.
Bird had a jumper, but once Johnson grabbed a rebound and got out on the break, no one could stop him. People loved his passes, but it was Johnson's clutch plays at the end of games that show what a tough competitor he was. Bird might have been a competitor, but he didn't have the speed and athleticism Johnson had. Give us Magic all day.
People underrate how athletic the NBA was in the '70s and '80s. Larry Bird wasn’t stepping into a slow league, and he was still able to maximize all his talents to dominate the NBA like no one ever before.
Magic was great, but he was all flash. Bird brought the hurt. He brought toughness to a league that needed it. He would wear you down with his shooting, and pick you apart with his passing. And if the game was on the line, you knew where it was going—you just couldn't stop it. Bird would hit a dagger right in your face, and let you know about it. He was an assassin Magic couldn't keep up with.
Standing at 6'9", Magic could see everything on the court. Pair that with his unreal passing ability, and you have one of the greatest point guards of all time. By the time Johnson retired, he had five NBA championships, three MVPs, and three Finals MVPs.
He still holds the record for most assists in a single Finals game, and holds the record for highest assists per game. If not for an HIV diagnosis, Magic may have continued to do great things on the court.
Johnson’s impact extends beyond the court as well. The joy he showed was infectious, and he garnered a huge following. His ability to market brought the NBA out of the dark ages of the tape-delayed '70s into a new era where the NBA was finally a respected sport.
Bird was neither the fastest, nor the strongest guy on the court at any point during his NBA career. However, you can be damn sure he was one of the toughest. Bird never backed down, and used his untouchable jumper to set up the rest of his game. He wouldn’t blow by you, but he always got to where he needed to be on the court to make a play. He would throw some of the prettiest passes from the most impossible angles. It was breathtaking.
Bird dominated the '80s with three consecutive MVP awards and three NBA titles. Only a back injury slowed Bird’s assault on the NBA, but who knows what would have happened if it never bothered him.
Bird may not have a magnetic personality like Magic, but he did generate a lot of interest from fans who appreciated a grittier competitor. His gruff demeanor brought back the blue-collar crowd to the NBA—a crowd that gravitated to Bird’s success, despite playing against more athletic players. They saw themselves in him, a guy constantly underestimated, but will grind you out.