There’s a long-running debate among basketball enthusiasts over who was better, Earvin “Magic” Johnson or Larry Bird.
The debate is inseparable from conversations about the NBA during the 1980s — a struggling, racially-polarized league given new life by the rivalry between Johnson, Bird and their respective teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
ESPN charts the feud in a three-part “30 for 30” documentary — Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies — the first two episodes of which aired Tuesday night. The film is both nuanced and deliberate in documenting how race factored into the rivalry.
But its conceit is rooted in a fallacy. Johnson, who is black, outmatched Bird by every notable metric — even as fans scrambled for a white foil who could match the Laker star’s brilliance.
It’s time to stop placing these men on equal footing, as if Johnson didn’t spend the decade demolishing his white opponent. Bird was a great player. But the '80s belonged to Magic. Read more (Opinion)