Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird are three of the best players in NBA history. Each superstar won multiple championships, regular-season MVPs, and Finals MVPs and got inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Since he won the most championships, regular-season MVPs, Finals MVPs, and scoring titles out of the trio, Jordan is widely regarded as the top player. However, the Chicago Bulls legend — who was raised to be humble by his parents — never viewed himself as a better player than Magic or Bird.
Michael Jordan on Larry Bird and Magic Johnson: I don’t put myself above them
Following his fifth championship in 1997, Jordan was asked by SLAM Magazine where he put himself next to Magic and Bird. His Airness 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 faced Bird in the playoffs twice, while he matched up against Magic once. The Bulls great never defeated the Boston Celtics icon in the postseason, but he did get the best of the Magic Man.
Michael Jordan got swept by Larry Bird twice, beat Magic Johnson in ’91 Finals
Bird and the Celtics swept Jordan and the Bulls in the first round of the 1986 playoffs and the first round of the 1987 postseason. In Game 2 of the 1986 series, Jordan set an NBA record by scoring 63 points. Even though Boston won, Bird was in awe of the UNC product.
“That wasn’t Michael Jordan out there,” Bird said. “That was God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
After the Bulls acquired Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, Jordan had the help he needed to make some noise in the postseason. Chicago finally defeated the Detroit Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals after losing to them three years in a row and faced Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. LA won Game 1 in the Windy City, but the Bulls won the next four games to clinch the championship.
Jordan and Magic hugged each other in the hallway after the Bulls won the title. An emotional MJ was so happy that he busted through and became a champion, and Johnson was there to comfort him.
You certainly can’t talk about the NBA without mentioning Jordan, Magic, and Bird. The three basketball purists gave everything they had to the game and experienced individual and team success.
Taking a look at their résumés
Jordan, Magic, and Bird combined to win 14 championships, 11 regular-season MVPs, and 11 Finals MVPs. The three friends were also on the 1992 Dream Team that won the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics.
In 1,072 NBA games, Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. He won 10 scoring titles, five regular-season MVPs, six championships, and six Finals MVPs. The 14-time All-Star is the all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating.
Magic, who spent his entire career with the Lakers, averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists. He won three regular-season MVPs, three Finals MVPs, and five championships. The point guard is sixth in NBA history in assists and third in triple-doubles.
Like Magic, Bird only played for one NBA team. He averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists for the Celtics while winning three regular-season MVPs, three championships, and two Finals MVPs. Larry Legend is seventh all-time in triple-doubles.
Jordan, Bird, and Magic were close friends during their playing careers and probably keep in touch to this day. It was undoubtedly a treat for basketball fans to watch the three legends play and achieve success at the highest level in the ’80s and ’90s.