Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had arguably the most iconic rivalry in NBA history. Two legendary players who started their careers around the same time, playing for two of the most decorated franchises in league history; the Celtics and the Lakers. And the two have become the two biggest to wear these jerseys.

Larry Bird entered the league in 1978, after a stellar stint at Indiana State. He was joining a fallen Boston Celtics team. After joining, he immediately turned them into a championship contender. With Bird at the helm, the Celtics would be one of the best teams in the NBA for years to come.

The Celtics would add other solid stars like Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, allowing them to form a great line that has dominated the Eastern Conference. In just 2 seasons, Bird would lead the Celtics to the NBA Championship, establishing himself as an NBA superstar.

As for Magic Johnson, he entered the league in 1979 and immediately took it by storm. Johnson joined a fairly strong Los Angeles Lakers team led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and immediately made an impact.

He and Kareem formed a solid tandem and took the Lakers to the NBA Finals. And during the Finals, Magic announced his arrival in the NBA landscape by leading the Lakers to the Championship and winning the Finals MVP, becoming the only player in history to win the Finals MVP as a rookie.

The duo were incredibly dominant in the 1980s. In fact, Bird and Magic Johnson played in every NBA Finals of the decade and had 13 NBA Finals appearances between the two during the 1980s.

Magic and Bird have even faced each other in the NBA Finals three times; 1984, 1985 and 1987. Bird and the Celtics won their first meeting in 1984 but would lose to Magic and the Lakers in 1985 and 1987. The rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics was arguably at its peak during this time.

No duo have been able to match this, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry being the closest, playing 9 of 10 NBA Finals in the 2010s.

There are very few words to describe how crucial Bird and Magic have played in the global growth of the NBA. They made television the staple of the NBA and made the league one of the most lucrative sports brands in the world.

Charles Barkley described Magic and Bird as the two most important players in league history and thanked them for saving the league and giving it new life. It’s hard to argue, given the popularity of the NBA today and how revered Bird and Magic are in the NBA today.