Reliving Bird vs. Magic

Prior to clashing in Celtic Green and Laker Purple, Bird and Magic conceived basketball’s greatest individual rivalry 30 years ago this March in the 1979 NCAA finals. Even as kids, the pair’s diametrically opposed styles made an impression on two journalists who covered the game between Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores and Magic’s Michigan State Spartans. While Bird’s rural demeanor failed to excite a national audience, “Johnson, on the other hand, with his razzle-dazzle style, had captured America's imagination, in many ways overshadowing Bird,” one writer recalls. But Bird was no less prodigious: “I saw him play for the first time, and I can compare it with what was nearly 25 years later when I went to see LeBron James play in high school. I was stunned by Bird's brilliance.”