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)
Recently came across this photo in the archives from Sports Illustrated and the Associated Press. The caption reads:
“Boston Celtics coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach poses with “Batman” villians the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), Cat Woman (Lee Meriwether), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and the Joker (Cesar Romero) prior to Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles on April 26, 1966. The Lakers would win the game but lose the series two days later in Boston, giving Auerbach his 9th NBA Championship and making him a bigger villian in Los Angeles than any “Batman” character. (AP)”