Larry Bird Humbly Admitted That Magic Johnson was a Better Player Than Him: ‘He’s the Best I Have Ever Seen’

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson created the NBA’s most iconic rivalry. The two Hall of Famers brought the best out of each other through sheer competition. All that led the former Boston Celtics star to admit the former Los Angeles Lakers great was a better player than him.

Larry Bird engaged in a legendary rivalry with Magic Johnson

Bird and Johnson sparked their rivalry in the 1979 NCAA championship after the latter led Michigan State over Indiana State.

The two quickly became engrained as the stars leading the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers to sustained championship success. They dominated the 1980s, winning eight championships in 13 Finals appearances.

The two Hall of Famers combined to win five Finals MVP awards and six regular-season MVP awards, and receive 24 All-Star selections and 18 All-NBA First Team nods. Behind their stellar play, the Lakers and Celtics dominated the decade as the two clear-cut best teams.

They faced off three times on the grandest stage, with the Lakers star grabbing the edge twice. The last Finals matchup between them led Bird to openly admit his longtime rival was a better player than him.

Larry Bird humbly admitted that Magic Johnson was a better player than him: ‘He’s the best I have ever seen’

Bird and Johnson engaged in legendary battles throughout their illustrious careers.

One of the most iconic moments came after Johnson hit the infamous “junior, junior” skyhook in Game 4 of the 1987 Finals that gave the Lakers a commanding 3-1 series lead. After the contest, the Celtics star admitted that his longtime rival was the best player he had ever seen.

“Magic is just a great basketball player,” Bird said. “He’s the best I have ever seen. You know. Unbelievable. I don’t know what to say.”

His comments came after the Celtics squandered a chance to even the series. Bird held justifiable raw emotions as the loss put his team on the brink of elimination. What made it a more difficult pill to swallow is that he narrowly missed a game-winning 3-pointer after Johnson’s hook shot.

Boston managed to push the series to six games, but Johnson’s double-double with 16 points and 19 assists in Game 6 elevated him to a second NBA title win over his rival. The Lakers star earned the 1987 Finals MVP award after averaging a near triple-double with 26.2 points, 13.0 assists, and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 54.1% from the floor and 50% from 3-point range.

The loss hit Bird hard as he used Johnson as his muse to push himself forward. He stated on a few occasions that the Lakers star was better than him. It isn’t a knock on the player he was, but rather an honest admission about his rival. Bird holds tremendous respect toward Johnson, while the competition drove him to strive for greater success.

Legendary NBA legacies remain forever tied together

Bird‘s admission aside, the fierce competition against Johnson created what remains the league’s greatest rivalry.

The numerous memorable matchups led the two to foster tremendous shared respect and admiration. The constant comparisons initially fueled hatred between them, but as time passed, that transformed into a strong sense of gratitude toward the other for bringing the best of them.

Meanwhile, the intense competition lifted the league and game to greater heights. Their iconic rivalry pushed the NBA to popularity it hadn’t reached before while inspiring the generations of talent that followed them.

The two Hall of Famers played a pivotal role in shaping the NBA into what it has become while engraining themselves as two of the game’s greatest and most influential players.

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