The NBA is defined by its superstars. While superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant might be dominating the headlines now, it wasn't always the case as the sport was at a major decline in the 70s. But two superstars changed it the moment they entered the league, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Starting as rivals in college, Magic and Bird were easily the biggest superstars in their respective states. Leading their teams to successful runs in the NCAA, the two made a name in their collegiate career, and given how often they were pipped against each other, a new rivalry was born.
But the rivalry was not only limited to college. As fate would have it, both Bird and Magic were destined to face off against each other in the NBA as well. Drafted by the two of the biggest rival teams in the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, the Bird vs. Magic matchup was an instant classic.
While the two were eternal rivals on the court, off the court, the duo of Magic and Bird had gained respect for each other and eventually became really good friends. By 1992, though, the duo who were the beating heart of the NBA in the 80s had to retire.
But given his incredible contributions to the Celtics franchise, a jersey retirement was long overdue, and it came to fruition in 1993. With a filled crowd in the Boston Garden, 'Larry Legend' got a beautiful sendoff from his team, and unsurprisingly, his close friend Magic Johnson also showed up.
Making an appearance with his Lakers warmups, Magic entered the stage and gave an incredible speech for his longtime on-court rival and dear friend. While he did his part to give Bird a proper tribute, he had another surprise for Bird.
While on the court, Magic had actually worn a Celtics T-shirt underneath his warmups, and as soon as Bird saw it, he tried to rip the jersey off of the guard.
In an interaction with Johnson back in 2009, Bird said, (6:20 onwards):
I saw you walk around the court and you had the Boston Celtics jersey underneath. I could not let it go and I had to rip that thing off for the Celtic fans, but you really wanted to be a Celtic, huh? It might have been the last time you wore it. It was a really nice moment.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson will remain the two most influential stars in the NBA, and if not for their iconic friendship and their on-court rivalry, we might not have had the modern NBA.