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Larry Bird and Magic Johnson To Receive Prestigious Award

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Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson came into the NBA in the same year, 1979. They went on to change the game and revitalize the sport over the course of their respective Hall of Fame careers.

So it’s only fitting that they are honored together.

Bird and Johnson will both receive the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual NBA Awards ceremony on June 24 in Los Angeles, according to NBA.com news release.

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Past recipients include Bill Russell (2017) and Oscar Robertson (2018), the news release said.

Bird and Johnson are considered by many to be two of the 10 best players in NBA history.

The two rivals entered the public eye in the 1979 NCAA men’s basketball championship, where Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans beat Bird’s then-undefeated Indiana State Sycamores 75-64 to win the national title.

Bird went on to play for the Boston Celtics that fall, while Johnson played for the rival Lakers — the two most successful franchises in the sport.

Did Magic Johnson and Larry Bird change the NBA for the better?

Bird won the Rookie of the Year award, leading the Celtics to 61 regular season wins.

It was a remarkable turnaround for an NBA team that won just 29 games the year before. The Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Philadelphia.

Johnson, meanwhile, helped lead his Lakers that year to the NBA title, as the Lakers beat the 76ers in six games. Johnson was named the Finals MVP.

Bird came back the next year and led the Celtics to the NBA title as Boston beat the Rockets in six games.

The Lakers and Celtics went on to meet three times in the NBA Finals — in 1984, 1985, and 1987. Bird and the Celtics won in 1984 while Johnson and the Lakers were victorious in 1985 and 1987.

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Bird finished his career with three NBA titles, while Johnson won five. Both players were named regular season MVP three times, and Johnson won three Finals MVP Awards, while Bird won two.

Both were 12-time All-Stars. Each also was named to an All-NBA team 10 times.

They were teammates and co-captains on USA Basketball’s gold medal-winning dream team at the 1992 Summer Olympics, and both were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Each player dominated their positions — and reinvented them — like few players had ever done before. Johnson was a 6’9″ point guard, which was unheard of at the time.

He was the engineer of the “Showtime” Lakers and their fast break, in addition to being one of the best passers ever, ranking fifth in NBA history in assists.

Bird had an all-around game like no one had ever seen. He was the best shooter in the NBA during his time, which was unheard of for a 6’9″ forward.

But he was also, like Johnson, a wizard with the ball — a brilliant passer who essentially invented the concept of the point-forward.

Both players played 13 seasons in the NBA with the same team. Bird retired in 1992 with career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

Johnson retired in 1991 after discovering that he was HIV-positive. After missing four seasons, he did return for one final campaign in 1995-96.

Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game in 13 seasons with the Lakers.

The two players were heated rivals in their early days, though they eventually became great friends. After Johnson announced that he was HIV-positive, Bird was reportedly the first player to call him.

“The first call I got that day was from Larry,” Johnson said in 2012 interview with ESPN.

“Man, that moved me. You value great friends, people who, no matter what, will be there to support you.”

There have been documentaries, books and even a Broadway play about them.

These two giants of the game will forever be linked, so it’s only fitting that they are honored together.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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