Magic Johnson and Larry Bird dominated the 1980s as the centerpieces to championship success. Michael Jordan‘s turn to impose his will came the following decade, but before he took over the mantel, he issued a stern message to Johnson and Bird.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird commanded the 1980s
As Jordan worked his way up the ranks in the 1980s, Johnson and Bird achieved significant championship success.
The two all-time greats transformed the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics into powerhouses. Bird and Johnson combined to win eight NBA titles with 13 NBA Finals appearances. The two competed against each other three times on the grandest stage, with the Lakers star getting the edge twice.
Beyond that, Bird and Johnson became crucial factors in elevating the NBA to tremendous popularity and worldwide appeal. They helped the league avoid the devastating fate it was toward that could have fallen into irrelevancy or a far worse fate.
However, as the 1990s came about, Jordan finally found his spot to dish a dose of reality to the two all-time greats.
Michael Jordan delivered shocking advice for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird: ‘I’m warning you right now, You better quit’
Jordan never lacked self-confidence as he always felt that he could best any opponent.
The unique experience with the 1992 Olympic Dream Team allowed him to be around the game’s best talent. It also gave Jordan the space to personally talk with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who dominated the 1980s behind their sustained championship success.
Ahmad Rashad, a longtime sports media personality and former NFL player, recalled a heated conversation between the Olympic Dream Team players. It began centered on who had the best teams then transitioned to championships. Bird silenced the players who didn’t win a title, leading Jordan to jump in to end the intense dialogue by warning him and Johnson.
“I was sitting up there with Larry Bird and we were just watching,” Rashad recounted. “Then finally, Michael gets very upset and says, ‘Listen, all I’m telling you — I’m telling you Larry, I’m telling you Magic — if you don’t quit, every time I see you next year I am busting your ass. When I come to your arena, I’m busting your ass. I’m warning you right now, you better quit.’”
Bird didn’t waste a moment by quickly shining the light on Johnson to realize what the standing of the situation had become.
“After time went by, Larry Bird just looks over at Magic and he says, ‘Magic, you and I were then, and Michael Jordan is now.’ And that’s how that went,” Rashad said.
Bird and Johnson dominated the 1980s, but it was becoming Jordan’s era to dominate the league as they once did.
Michael Jordan dominated the 1990s
Although Johnson remained prideful and confident in his ability, he already received a strong dose of what was to come after losing in the 1991 NBA Finals to Jordan and the Bulls.
The star guard set the tone as it led to the first of two three-peats of championships. Despite taking a two-year hiatus into retirement, Jordan dominated the 1990s behind winning six NBA titles and six Finals MVP awards, earned four regular-season MVP awards, and received seven All-Star Game selections and seven All-NBA First-Team nods.
Jordan’s dominance during the decade lifted his legacy to tremendous heights, garnering recognition as arguably the greatest NBA player. Beyond that, he set the gold standard for the generations of NBA talent that followed him.