The NBA has had plenty of great players who have impacted the game in different ways. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell marked a new era while the Michael Jordan and the 90s stars took the league to the next level.
Many players left their mark on the league with their styles of play, accolades, and personalities. But, Charles Barkley believes two players really made a difference for the association, saving it in the 80s, by making the league a relevant competition.
The 1993 NBA MVP named Magic Johnson and Larry Bird the two most important figures in the league history, crediting them for saving the league thanks to their incredible rivalry.
“Think about the NBA, we’re doing the 75th anniversary now. The two most important figures are Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. They saved the NBA,” Charles said, via Essentially Sports. “So those two guys to me are the most important people. And I love both of those guys for what they did for me and my family.”
Back in the 70s and 80s, these two legends went at it, leading the two winningest teams in league history to win multiple championships. Bird and Johnson were very close friends and fierce rivals at the same time.
They and their teams represented different things, and those clashes always drew a lot of attention. You can say the NBA is global thanks to Michael Jordan, but MJ couldn't have taken the competition to the next level if Magic and Larry didn't save it during their best years.
Just like Chuck, plenty of people think this way and are grateful to the two legends. They marked an era, arguably the most important in NBA history.