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Magic gives Bird and the Celtics some credit for the Lakers mastering the up-tempo play style.
The rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, headlined by all-time greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, skyrocketed NBA's popularity.
The legends had the chance to reminisce about their duels during a teleconference call with reporters prior to the teams' 2008 NBA Finals matchup. When asked about the enjoyable play styles their squads employed back then, Johnson stated that his Lakers had Boston to thank for why they played that way.
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"You have to remember, when we played, it was all about running and going up and down the court," Magic said. "We built our team basically watching the Celtics because when we saw Larry and them, Larry and them had so many shooters, not only on the court but also on the bench. They were coming in with Danny [Ainge], Chris Ford, [Jerry] Sichting. You can go on and on and on. Not only could they rebound, not only could they defend, but then they could get out on a break. They didn't run as fast as us, but they ran with a purpose. Their purpose was to get it in Larry's hand and let him make a decision after D.J. (Dennis Johnson) had brought it down the court."
The Sharman connection
Perhaps a huge reason the Magic-era Lakers looked at the Celtics as a standard of greatness was that their general manager in the early 80s was Bill Sharman.
The retired shooting guard had played for Boston in the 1950s, helping the franchise win four titles. However, he jumped ship in the 1970s to coach the Purple and Gold in the 1970s and served as the organization's general manager that helped build the Showtime Lakers.
Throughout the decades, the NBA has proven to be a game of imitations. And Johnson's L.A. crew apparently did it to perfection, as the Lakers dominated the league using an up-tempo game that it might have learned to harness and master by watching their archrivals. The team from La La Land eventually became known for its no-bounce fast breaks that had opponents' defense off-balance.
The Magic-Larry friendship
Magic and Larry Legend are still good friends and have held so much respect for one another. That's why the two Hall of Famers talk each other up at every chance. That was the case during that 2008 interview, as Johnson praised Boston for being adept at fastbreaks and unstoppable in halfcourt sets. On the other hand, Bird returned the favor by highlighting the Lakers' penchant for getting easy baskets on the break.
Fortunately, their rivalry was founded on mutual respect, even if Lakers-Celtics matchups sometimes had bad blood.
Los Angeles eventually gained the upper hand after drawing inspiration from Boston. The protagonists faced off three times in the Finals during the decade, with the Lakers coming out on top twice in 1985 and 1987 after losing the first battle in 1984.
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