Rivalries give something great to the game. There are two confronted sides which are different on everything. Black and white. Good and evil. There aren’t similarities between these two sides. And you must pick one. How to choose? There are a couple of reasons how to choose the right side for you. First, similar mentality and character of the player or tradition and ideology of the team. You just find some player or team suitable for you. It matches your style, your attitude, etc. Second reason is home education. When your father or grandfather teach you to love that team you will love them until you terminate your earthly life. And the same will do your kids and their kids etc.
Rivalry behind Larry Bird and Magic Johnson is one of the greatest rivalries just for itself, but it has a deeper story. It all began with the game on Nov 9, 1948. Before Los Angeles Lakers, there were Minneapolis Lakers. Winning 5 NBA Championships from 1949 to 1954 made them look like the best franchise. And they were until the 60s came and Celtics stepped up on the scene. Winning 11 NBA Championships from 1957 to 1969 and beating the Lakers 7 times in the NBA Finals marked the Celtics as Lakers’ deadly enemies.
After that came the 70s and the quiet period of this rivalry. They won together 3 NBA Championships, but they never confronted on the way to it. And then with a combination of circumstances and some other things like God’s will, the rivalry was reformed in the 80s, presenting to us some of the best games in the NBA History. But, before that happened something that effected on this rivalry to shine again. The foundation for the renewed Celtics–Lakers rivalry of the 1980s was actually laid down in college basketball of the late 1970s.
Season 1978-1979 NCAA Finals, Michigan State versus Indiana State. In the most-watched college basketball game ever Michigan State led by Magic Johnson won against Indiana State led by Larry Bird. Bird, College player of that Year had a bad game in NCAA Finals and that left the scars on him.
“It’s the one thing I’ll never get over,” he has said.
Two phenomena who came from nowhere, Bird and Johnson, now joined two franchises. Bird went to the Celtics and Magic went to the Lakers. If they haven’t joined Celtics and Lakers, this rivalry would be like rivalry level David Robinson vs Patrick Ewing, but instead, we got a decade full of intense, energetic and fanatical battles between “Lakers Showtime” and “Celtic Pride”.
Magic said of the games against the Celtics, “when the new schedule would come out each year, I’d grab it and circle the Boston games. To me, it was The Two and the other 80.” Similarly, Bird said that, “the first thing I would do every morning was look at the box scores to see what Magic did. I didn’t care about anything else.”
The “Big Three” Era in the Celtics and the “Showtime” Era in the Lakers brought us the best rivalry in the NBA History. For example, return to the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals. Philadelphia 76ers are about to beat the Celtics and go to the NBA Finals where they will play against the Lakers. Boston is on the dead end and about to lose this series. Celtics fans are disappointed, but they chant “Beat L.A.!”
In every single NBA Finals series during the 1980s, either the Lakers or the Celtics were present and only two times NBA Championship went somewhere other than in Boston or Los Angeles. In 1983 Philadelphia 76ers won series against the Lakers 4-0. Again in 1989, Los Angeles Lakers were on the losing side. This time, they got beaten by Detroit Pistons. Every other year Celtics or Lakers won the NBA Championship. Lakers won it 5 times and Celtics did it 3 times.
I mentioned how Celtics won 7 times against the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Imagine the situation before 1984 NBA Finals and the first meeting between Lakers and Celtics after the 60s. Lakers lost 1983 NBA Finals and were going against some sort of transition period. They had Magic and Kareem on the roster and they wanted the revenge for those big losses in the past. And then happened Larry Bird. MVP of the Finals stopped Lakers to reach the revenge they wanted for so long.
But, a year later the sun comes for Lakers fans. After rain comes the sun many say, but this was a massive storm for Lakers fans in the past years. They won 1985 NBA Finals 4-2 against the Celtics and end the drought of not winning against Boston in NBA Finals.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss famously remarked that “this has removed the most odious sentence in the English language. It can never again be said that ‘the Lakers have never beaten the Celtics'”.
Two years later same happened. Lakers won 4-2 against the Celtics and both teams give us one more iconic battle between these two teams. A historical moment from this series that will be remembered forever is Magic Johnson’s Baby Skyhook.
Afterwards, Johnson labeled the shot “my junior, junior sky-hook,” after Abdul-Jabbar’s favorite weapon.
“You expect to lose to the Lakers on a sky-hook,” noted Bird. “You don’t expect it to be from Magic.”
After that Lakers won another NBA Championship finishing it with their 11th in the trophy room. One basketball era was finished and this end made a room for another to come. Because, one man’s loss is another man’s gain.
“Magic is a great, great basketball player,” Bird stated flatly, settling the issue for the moment. “The best I’ve ever seen.”
This quote was after the 1987 NBA Finals and a big loss to the Lakers. Yeah, they don’t like each other for sure. They hardly talk and looked each other. But, after all, those years of great fight and giving 110% of their possibilities, especially against each other, they knew to appreciate the greatness.
Many say that this rivalry was beyond the boundaries of basketball. This rivalry represented many other contrasts, such as the clash between the Lakers and Celtics, between Hollywood flashiness (“Lakers Showtime”) and Boston/Indiana blue collar grit (“Celtic Pride”), and between blacks and whites. 1984 Converse commercial for its “Weapon” line of basketball shoes (endorsed by both Bird and Johnson) reflected the perceived dichotomy between the two players. In the commercial, Bird is practicing alone on a rural basketball court when Johnson pulls up in a sleek limousine and challenges him to a one-on-one match. Despite their on the court rivalry, the two became friends after filming the commercial together.
And that’s most important. There is no place to hatred or abomination. Fight hard every time and give your maximum, but after all, all of you play that game you played from your childhood on the court near your house. And all of you met there your first love. The basketball. Your love should lead to something great, something that will future generations observe and say “WOW!”, like we do that now. And that’s the true power of basketball!