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Larry Bird and Magic Johnson have often been credited with saving the NBA in the 1980s. The two legends had perhaps the greatest rivalry in the history of the league, and they dominated in their unique ways. While Magic Johnson was all about passing and making the right play, Larry Bird was a shooter and scorer of the highest caliber. And in 1984, legendary Laker Jerry West revealed he preferred Bird's game.
"Bird whets your appetite for the game," West said, as per a 1984 article by Sports Illustrated. "He's such a great passer and he doesn't make mistakes. Magic handles the ball more, and he makes more mistakes because he has it more.
"We're all fond of different kinds of books, different types of movies. The one that best approaches the kind of game I would recommend a young player model himself after is Bird. He's a genius on the basketball floor."
Jerry West was an important cog in the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, he helped build the team that won 5 championships before eventually assembling the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal Lakers as well. So the fact that he had such high praise for Magic's biggest rival, a Celtics legend, goes to show how respected Bird was around the league.
Larry Bird And Magic Johnson Opened Up On The Intensity Of Their Rivalry
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came into the league together, having gone head-to-head at the collegiate level as well. Their rivalry continued in the NBA and was influential in making the league great again as well. And Bird explained how intense it got.
"There's no question that Magic is the toughest competitor and probably the toughest player I've ever seen," Bird said. "There's no question about that, we already know that... We've seen what he's done for the last 13, 14 years, starting in college.
"I'll never forget that college game where I knew from the beginning we was outmatched because of the talent and Magic was leading them up and down the court. We got into the first year in the NBA, he wins the championship right off the bat. A lot of pressure, a lot of pressure."
For his part, Magic Johnson revealed that he hated Larry Bird during that time: "I think because the relationship with Larry happened in college, then it carried over to the two most storied franchises in NBA history, and we played so many times. That's why we hated each other."
One thing is for sure, a rivalry like that hasn't been seen since the duo retired from the NBA. There have been others but none that come particularly close. And picking between Bird and Magic seems like a matter of personal opinion, although most would imagine that Jerry West at least, would pick Magic.