By Joshua Schnitman
In a classic 1987 regular season matchup between Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, Johnson led the Lakers to a 106-103 come-from-behind victory, scoring 39 points (on 12/20 shooting from the field and 14/15 from the free throw line), while also dishing out 10 assists, and grabbing seven rebounds. Bird finished the game off with 20 points (on 7/12 shooting from the field and 5/7 from the free throw line), while dishing out seven assists, and grabbing five rebounds.
After three consecutive seasons in which Bird captured the league MVP award, 1986-87 turned out to be Johnson’s first of three MVP seasons — as he averaged a career best 23.9 points per game (while shooting an efficient 52.2% from the field and 84.8% from the free throw line), as he led the league in assists with his astounding 12.2 assists per game average, while also averaging 6.3 rebounds per game. And in the 1987 NBA Finals rematch between these two storied rival franchises and icons, Earvin continued to show off that same “magic” that he had shown throughout the 1986-87 season, leading the Lakers to their fourth title of the 1980s, second of three titles over Larry Bird and the Celtics, while claiming his third Finals MVP award in the process.
The Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird rivalry is notably considered to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) rivalry in sports history, as the two superstars were the spearhead of the phenomenal rise in popularity of the NBA in the 1980s.