OT - Magic vs Bird

Submitted by BigBlue02 on March 14th, 2010 at 12:42 PM

So I am watching "Magic & Bird: Courtship/Rivals" on HBO and I forgot just how amazing basketball was in the 80s. It made me want to watch highlights of the bad boys (which I would say came shortly after the bird/magic rivalry was in its prime). Some of the fouls that weren't called flagrant are actually comical when looking back. If anyone has the free time, I would definitely suggest watching it.



March 14th, 2010 at 12:49 PM ^

Bird was a gangsta, he was a bad ass hillbilly.

I'd like to know the coach of the 78 national team that kept these 2 on the bench. Magic and Larry must have stood ahead of the rest of the clowns by a mile


March 14th, 2010 at 12:55 PM ^

Fathers day I asked Mom whats the word?
She said son I think your Daddy might be Larry Bird
I said the hick from French Lick is that the man you say?
She said son bet even money Daddys Doctor J now.

BOOOOOOORN in the NBA and I have no idea who my Daddy is today now.

Kareem Jablunt he offered Mom some hemp
Oh Lord dont tell me that my Daddy just might be Shawn Kemp
Irving Magic Johnson he got quite sick
Why cant the men of the NBA wear a propholaptic now?

BOOOOOOORN in the NBA and I have no idea who my Daddy is today now.

919 Brown

March 14th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

I watched this the other night and thought they did a great job with it. Being a Pistons fan I obviously didn't like the Celtics and Lakers, but this gave me some new found respect for both Larry and Magic. The clip of Bird making that steal in the last seconds in the '87 Eastern Conference Finals was painful to watch again.


March 14th, 2010 at 1:12 PM ^

That steal was a heartbreaker. Although just watching the clips from Boston Garden brought back plenty of memories of sitting around on a Sunday and watching NBA basketball. It also reminded me of that sweet Pistons championship big-head t shirt I used to wear.


March 14th, 2010 at 12:59 PM ^

I always picture Larry watching the Pacers on a random Tuesday night looking out on the floor and throwing up in his mouth. Here was the best player on his team and maybe the league, diving on the floor for loose balls, getting in fist fights and sitting in traction all day so he could play at night and he looks out and sees his team down 15 laughing on the sidelines while M. Dunleavy and D. Granger look at each other as another guy walks in for an uncontested lay up with another 3 guys on the dl for hang nails and a sprained ankle


March 14th, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

It is definitely a different league. Blood and bruises were commonplace in the 80s and early 90s. The refs take a lot of that away in today's game. I know MJ got calls just because he was MJ, but I don't think it is nearly as bad as what Lebron and Kobe get these days.


March 14th, 2010 at 2:47 PM ^

listening to the radio on my way home from work when I heard Magic had HIV. I specifically recall I was at Ford & Beech Daly in Dearborn. I kept thinking that Magic was going to go the route of Lou Gehrig but he has survived.

I would take Magic since he seemed to elevate the play of those around him better than Bird just because he was the orchestrator handling the ball. He could play any position.


March 14th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

Fantastic documentary...got sucked in to watching it this morning and it was really interesting. I think it did a great job of capturing the human, more emotional side of their rivalry and relationship that people didn't get to see.

Nosce Te Ipsum

March 14th, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

I couldn't get over the fact that Johnson kept talking about himself in such a strange manner. Basically I couldn't stand his commentary because I couldn't stand listening to him talk about how he has a split personality.


March 14th, 2010 at 4:28 PM ^

I think you know this, but just in case, and no insult intended, Magic was talking about how he lost his values.

I thought it was a really well done documentary. Some of you guys might be a bit young to appreciate just how intense this rivalry was, and just how hard these two guys played against one another.

Watching Byrd and Magic play against each other was mandatory TV watching for any sports fan. In hindsight, the respect level each had for the other was impressive.


March 14th, 2010 at 5:09 PM ^

Q: What are three things basketball lacks today that the NBA and NCAA at their respective 1980s pinnacles had in spades.

The NBA reached apogee in 1985 in terms of 2FG%, 3FG%, FT% and scoring . Ever since then it's been getting worse. The legalization of zone defense, rampant increases in early declarations for the draft, emphasis of athleticism over skill development, etc. all have contributed to the decline.

See http://www.baseballcrank.com/archives2/2004/08/basketball_shoo.php for a pretty telling analysis. The analysis is a bit dated (2004 season is the most recent analyzed), but the long term trends are still quite obvious.

It's worth acknowledging that increased athleticism also has led to improvements in defensive performance.

Still, it's hard not to watch the Magic vs Bird documentary and not find today's version of basketball pretty pathetic and disheartening.

I find it telling that basketball historians scoff at the notion that Jordan saved the NBA, when it was clear that Magic and Bird deserve that credit as two of the most elegantly skilled players in NBA history.

In some sense, Jordan's elevation of athleticism over skill is the source of the NBA's current malaise. Jordan was both athletic and skilled, and relied on both, but his pure athletic prowess seems to be what modern players most seek to emulate, and they fail to marry the skill, athleticism, commitment and desire that Jordan (Pistons fan here, damn him) epitomized. As a result, we have a league of fundamentally weak and technically poor exceptional athletes.

panthera leo fututio

March 14th, 2010 at 6:26 PM ^

First, I think your overview of the numbers is a bit off -- looking at the link, 3-point shooting percentages have actually increased substantially since the mid '80s, and while free throw shooting might be down a touch, the change doesn't appear to be statistically significant.

More broadly, I'm not terribly persuaded by the argument that skill levels in the NBA have displayed much, if any, decrease. I absolutely love(d) watching Magic-Bird era basketball (though I was very young when it was actually going on), but I'd match the skill of today's best players against that of any era in history. Bryant, Anthony, Wade, Durant, James, Paul, Nowitzki, Duncan, etc. have enormously high skill and basketball IQ levels. Skill comparisons between even contemporary players are bound to be inconclusive, but I find it hard to imagine that one can be much better at the game of basketball than Kobe or LeBron (perhaps this is sacrilege, and granted bare fingers, but I'd argue for Bron as a better overall player than Bird or Magic).

I think there are valid claims to be made about aesthetics and what era of basketball one would most like to watch. But I've never seen an argument for skill decline that didn't ultimately reduce to unreflective nostalgia.


March 14th, 2010 at 6:45 PM ^

Decreased scoring doesn't necessarily mean decreased skill. The NBA has gone from being a league in which offense was emphasized far more than defense to one in which they are stressed about equally. I enjoyed the 1980s NBA as much as anyone, but watching those games now, I'm always struck by how little resistance the defensive players put up. Getting off an open shot was a lot easier back then.

I agree about LeBron being a better all-around player than Magic or Bird. Those two were phenomenal offense players but they'd be considered defensive liabilities today. LeBron might not have any rings, but he also hasn't had the luxury of playing alongside Hall of Fame teammates, save for a very old, brittle Shaq.

Blue boy johnson

March 14th, 2010 at 8:43 PM ^

Bird would light LeBron up and while Lebron is a better defender then Bird was, Bird was a better rebounder, passer and shooter. Lebron may end up being the best ever but he ain't there yet.

Magic? Magic was one of a kind, you can't really compare Magic's game to others IMHO. Magic's game was an anomaly


March 15th, 2010 at 12:03 AM ^

My mistake on 3FG%. I was on my way out, in a hurry, and didn't double check.

I think there's a semantic issue at hand, and perhaps it's simply reflective nostalgia, but I don't think fundamentals are nearly so important (or present) in today's game, and that athleticism has been conflated with skill.

Tim Duncan is The Big Fundamental, I guess, but when you compare him to Hakeem Olajuwon or Kevin McHale or Jack Sikma or a host of 1970s-1990s league talent, he's just a face in the crowd.

I'll stipulate that heightened athleticism has translated to tougher defense, and the legalization of zone defense principles has worsened matters. It's hard to argue that the Knicks and Heat in the 1990s and my Pistons in the 2000s played pretty basketball. It was ugly, and more like a rugby match. My epinion, granted, but still...

You're not wrong that there are a host of players in today's game that have skill, as well as high bball IQs, but it seems to me they stand out more these days IMHE because athleticism plus skill plus bball IQ is a rarity. It's conspicuous by its general absence.

Bron is highly talented and a tremendous athlete. But I'm with Gordie Bell on this...Bird wasn't the same defensive talent, but he always came up with the big steal, made the clutch 3, made his teammates better. And Magic was even better.

One other issue that I've not mentioned but merits consideration is pay scales. As I look back I wonder how the Celtics and Lakers, Sixers, Rockets, Pistons and the other 80s powerhouse teams assembled deep rosters with numerous weapons. Compared to the current NBA's omnipresent payroll considerations, it's amazing in retrospect. The Lakers had Magic, Kareem, Worthy, AC, Byron Scott, Coop, Mychal Thompson, etc.

That payroll couldn't happen today. I think of Kevin Garnett's $20mm+ per year and the schmucks he had to play with in Minnesota, and it's always a wonder to me he didn't go postal.

Perhaps I'm wearing rose-colored glasses, but when I watch 80s NBA, it just seems a lot more like a game I'd pay to watch.


March 14th, 2010 at 5:44 PM ^

Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell and Charlie Pierce's out of control eyebrow made this a 10 out of 10.

New Favorite Quote

" If I had a class of water and one of them (Lakers) was on fire, I'd drink the water and watch" - Cornbread

Enjoy the rest of your weekend