I watched the documentary Magic & Bird and I finally understood the hoopla. I was honestly looking at Larry Bird and thinking, how could that dude intimidate someone like Magic Johnson? Just as I was thinking the word to describe these two the narrator said it for me: doppelganger. They were doppelgangers! They were exactly the same player, at the same time, on two different teams. They went head to head and fought tooth and nail to beat the other. These two created the game while creating the original NBA rivalry: The Superstar vs. The Enigma.
The thing that I loved most about the documentary was Larry Bird's chill demeanor. He sat there and acted as if he wasn't the baddest mofo on the court before Michael Jordan. It gave me a giggle. I don't think I liked him too much before the doc, but I know I like him now.
The reason behind my new found respect, he doesn't give a shit. He honestly doesn't. People put the title of The Great White Hope upon him and he didn't want it. He was a country bumpkin from southern Indiana who could have easily played into the role of basketball’s white messiah, but he didn't. He didn't care that there were very few white players in the league, and he didn't care that there were only a few people, regardless of race, that could play like him. All he cared about was doing his best. In order for him to be the best he had to conquer the best, and the best at that time was Magic Johnson.
Everyone knows Magic Johnson. I’ve been to his theater, his TGI Friday, and watched the movies he produced. Despite my exposure to Magic Johnson, all I knew about him was just that: Magic Johnson the businessman. I barely knew that there was much to him besides being a business mogul. I mean I wasn’t ignorant to the fact that he had at one time played basketball. However, I never knew his skills on the court were so great that it inspired his rival, Larry Bird, to wake up early every day just to check Magic’s stats. To some people it might be crazy to think this, but without Magic Johnson there would not have been a Larry Bird. These men were born to play against each other.
I have to admit I got a little misty eyed toward the end of the doc when Johnson talked about contracting HIV. It was then when he realized who his real friends were and who his yes men were. Larry Bird turned out to be a real friend by being one of very few people who reached out to Magic after the news broke. Their 12 year rivalry proved to be nothing more than competition after Magic’s retirement. Bird no longer felt like playing, his motivation was gone, and he retired in 1992.
It’s a great doc is a tearjerker like a mofo. And in closing I'll let the famous words of Public Enemy tell the message