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Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing are two of the greatest players in NBA history. And, their heated rivalry with each other stemmed from animosity and intense competition. After all, they were two of the best players in the Eastern Conference. However, once they made it to the Dream Team, all it took was one play from Michael Jordan for Magic Johnson to note that the two had become best friends.
As Magic recalled in the book When the Game Was Ours, Larry and Patrick hated each other. Seeing as they played for the Celtics and Bulls respectively, the two almost never saw eye-to-eye. But, thanks to their time on the 1992 US Men's Olympic Basketball team, things changed from distaste to comradery.
Magic Johnson was surprised to see two of the quietest guys, Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing bonding over Michael Jordan
Despite being legends of the game, known for their incessant trash-talking, Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing were as silent as mice off the court. They barely ever spoke, even when they were cycling next to each other in the gym. This was probably due to years of rivalry.
However, all that changed when they were on the 1992 Dream Team. Not many noticed the change in their relationship, but it was pretty obvious to Magic Johnson. As the five-time champion recalled in the book, all it took was a good play from Michael Jordan for the two to become best buds.
Jordan was practicing with the team, playing against Clyde Drexler. A few possessions in, His Airness stole the ball from Clyde prompting much ridicule. The loudest of which came from The Hick from French Lick and Hoya Destroya, who, as Magic noted, were having a great time together making fun of Drexler.
"When Magic glanced over and caught Ewing and Bird guffawing over the misadventures of Clyde Drexler, who had been pickpocketed by Jordan on back-to-back possessions, he shook his head. 'I wasn't expecting that,' Magic said. 'Two of the quietest guys, and suddenly they were best friends.'"
Dream Team pals Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird share a laugh before taking the court (1992)
It certainly must have been quite the sight. Especially for Magic, who much like Ewing had a heated rivalry with Larry for years. And, it's all because of the brilliance of Michael Jordan, who actually put aside his ego and allowed Johnson and Bird to run the team.
Michael Jordan sacrificed his leadership role for the sake of Magic and Bird
Michael Jordan, known for his fierce competitiveness, humbly sacrificed his leadership role on the legendary Dream Team to honor Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Recognizing their immense contributions to basketball, Jordan understood the significance of their presence.
His decision fostered unity and camaraderie within the team, defying expectations of egos clashing. And, as everyone knows, the Dream Team went on to find great success, winning the gold in Barcelona. They truly were a legendary group of superstars.