There is no doubt that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird made the NBA what it is today. A league with personalities, with a worldwide reach and a healthy and most of all one of sports strongest and most comprehensive television deals that covers both broadcast and cable.
Saturday night at 8p.m.HBO debuts a documentary Magic and Bird: A courtship of rivals.
The film traces the history of the competition between Los Angeles Lakers immortal Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Boston Celtics great Larry Bird, which began 30 years ago when they led their Midwest universities to the 1979 NCAA Championship game, through a decade of dominance, when the two won three NBA MVP awards apiece and a combined eight NBA titles and one of the most unlikely friendships in sports history.
Before Magic and Bird the NBA would air their playoff games on tape delay. The two men together with their teams the Lakers and the Celtics were like a made for TV event.
The duo created a generation of basketball fans that did not the NBA was able to build from and able to start to market the game nationally and then as part of the 1992 Dream Team together they took the NBA global.
Here are a few quotes to give you a feel for this outstanding sports documentary:
HBO Sports’ Bryant Gumbel: “One of my pet peeves always is when people say, ‘Oh, Michael Jordan saved the NBA.’ Bull! ‘Magic’ and Larry saved the NBA.”
Larry Bird: “They talk about it every day somewhere. If I go to a foreign country, it’s ‘ “Magic”, where’s “Magic?” ’ It’s the same everywhere…We got this connection that’s never gonna be broken. I mean, right to our graves. They’ll be talking about this a hundred years from now.”
“Magic” Johnson: “We don’t have to see each other. We don’t have to say hello. We don’t have to call each other. You know you got this tight bond with this cat. And you don’t have to see him for a year or two. But you’re always gonna be linked to him.”
“Magic Johnson on the nickname given to him after his high school varsity debut: “In the beginning I thought…it was dumb. I didn’t know nothing about a nickname. And then you start saying, ‘Wait a minute, it fits my game.’ And then people in the street start saying, ‘Hey “Magic.” ’ And I said ‘Hmmm.’ ”
Bird’s teammate Kevin McHale: “Larry and ‘Magic’ could control the game with 12 shots. It was amazing. They’d be seven for 12, they’d have 20 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. And you go, ‘Man, he shot the ball twelve times and was the best player on the court by far.’ ”
Larry Bird: “But I always get this good feeling when I know I’m gonna see him because he makes you feel good, he really does. He’s unbelievable.”
“Magic” Johnson: “He’s very private, but if he’s your friend, you got a friend for life. And Larry Bird is a straight shooter. He’ll tell you when he don’t like you. That’s one thing I wish I could have that he has that I don’t have.”
The HBO documentary will air throughout the month on March and it is a great way to get ready see what really started all the madness.
Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his columns and blog, on washingtonexaminer.com.