The NBA has always been defined by its superstars, no matter the era. Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics dominated the league when Wilt Chamberlain was putting up historic numbers. This was followed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar establishing his supremacy before the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league and pushed it to even greater heights.
And Johnson had the benefit of being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, which saw him team up with Abdul-Jabbar, with the two becoming cornerstones of a dynasty that was to come. Michael Jordan would later come along and steal a lot of the spotlight away from those that came before him, but a recent interview from 1980 shared by NBA ToronoRapture on Reddit shows a conversation between Bill Russell and Magic, Kareem, and Jamaal Wilkes.
Bill Russell: “Well I have this theory that when teams want to repeat as champions that everyone wants to do more. And there’s a danger to upsetting the chemistry. because the key to a great team is chemistry. And so I was just wondering if you guys had thought about whether you guys want to do things exactly the same, or if there are some things you want to change.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “Well, I think what we do as a unit will overshine anything we do individually. If we are able to rise to the same level we were able to last year, we’ll have a very good year. We’ll win 60 games or almost 60 games, but that’s not going to keep another team from rising higher. So, we can’t get caught up in looking around us and try to compare what we’re doing to what everyone else is doing. We have to do what needs to be done first, which is make the playoffs in a good position. And then we have to see what happens from there.
Bill Russell: “Well Magic, after playing a whole year with Kareem, 100 games, what did you learn from him?”
Magic Johnson: “Give him the ball." *laughs* "I think what I tried to do during the season is learn where every player wants the ball. Where he wants it and where he can operate from. And it takes a bit more time with the big fella than with anybody else because he’s only in a certain area which is down low. And you have to really watch him to see where he puts up his hand. Because where he puts his hand up is where he really wants the ball.”
Well, it seems whatever it was they needed to figure out they did, Magic would go on to win 4 more titles in his career, even though they didn't win it the very next year. Watching these interviews is always a pleasure for fans of the game, giving a glimpse of what these legends were like when they were still in their prime.