Michael Jordan Convinced Larry Bird and Magic Johnson He Was Greatest Player in NBA After Just His 2nd Season: ‘Michael Jordan Is the Most Talented Player in the NBA, by Far’
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird knew exceptional talent when they saw it, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two NBA legends knew Michael Jordan was a once-in-a-generation player early on.
Before the 1986-87 season, Magic, Bird, and James Worthy were asked to give their thoughts on Jordan, who was entering his third NBA campaign. Despite only playing in 100 regular-season games and seven postseason games, Jordan convinced Magic and Bird — the two faces of the NBA — he was the greatest player in the game.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were in awe of Michael Jordan
Magic and Bird had nothing but extraordinary things to say about Jordan before the 1986-87 season. Even though MJ was bounced in the first round of the 1985 and 1986 playoffs, Magic and Bird believed the Chicago Bulls guard was the best player in the NBA.
“He’s a type of player that can go to another level anytime he wants to,” Bird said about Jordan. “Probably the greatest player in the game right now.”
“Michael Jordan is the most talented player in the NBA,” Magic said. “By far.”
Jordan averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists during his rookie season. He won the Rookie of the Year Award over Hakeem Olajuwon, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft.
His Airness followed up his rookie season by averaging 22.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 1985-86. The Bulls superstar only played in 18 games due to a broken left foot, but he scored 63 points against Bird and the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the 1986 first-round series between Chicago and Boston. Jordan still holds the record for most points scored in a playoff game.
Magic and Bird, who were MVPs and champions, recognized how special Jordan was in 1986-87. However, they couldn’t have predicted what the UNC product would go on to accomplish.
Michael Jordan achieved personal and team goals
Every great player wants to win MVPs and championships. However, only a select few do. Jordan was such a dominant player with the Bulls that he not only won MVPs and titles, but he also made sure he had a perfect record on the NBA’s biggest stage.
Magic and Bird combined to win eight championships. However, they didn’t go undefeated in the Finals like Jordan, who led the Bulls to six titles in the ’90s while three-peating twice. Superman also won all six Finals MVPs with Chicago; Magic and Bird combined to win five Finals MVPs.
Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.5 steals with the Bulls. Along with winning six championships and six Finals MVPs, the shooting guard won five regular-season MVPs, 10 scoring titles, three All-Star Game MVPs, and one Defensive Player of the Year Award. Magic and Bird are all-time greats, but even they never won a Defensive Player of the Year Award.
A 14-time All-Star, Jordan is the all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating in the regular season and postseason. The Bulls beat Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 Finals for their first championship. However, during his Hall of Fame career, Jordan never defeated Bird and the Celtics in the playoffs.
Jordan won more championships, regular-season MVPs, and Finals MVPs than Magic and Bird. However, he respected the icons who came before him so much that he never viewed himself as a better player.
MJ on Magic Johnson and Larry Bird: “I don’t put myself above them”
Following the Bulls’ fifth championship in 1997 over the Utah Jazz, Jordan was asked by SLAM Magazine where he put himself next to Magic and Bird. The All-NBA guard, who never called himself the GOAT, said he, Bird, and Magic were on parallel ground.
“I don’t put myself above them. I think that we’re all on parallel ground here,” Jordan said. “You know, they educated me about a lot of things about the game, from a team standpoint. So I can’t put myself above. I mean, people try to, but we played in different eras. I had an opportunity to go against them, in the peak of their careers, while I was still young. And I went against them, when I was at the peak of mine, when they was on the other end. So it was a passing of trends there, and we never had the opportunity to play against each other in peak years. You know, so it’s hard to say that I’m above them, by no means. I like to consider myself parallel to them.”
Jordan, Bird, and Magic combined to win 14 rings, 11 regular-season MVPs, and 11 Finals MVPs. You certainly can’t talk about the history of the NBA without mentioning them since they were winners and class acts.