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NBA - Respect - Larry Bird Canvas Art by IKONICK
It was the greatest rivalry in basketball: Two players who dominated the game throughout the 1980s and bumped heads the whole time. One was slower and methodical; the other was fast-paced and flashy. But both were fearless competitors on the court.
Throughout their respective careers, every culminating moment seemed to find Larry Bird on the opposite side of the ball from Magic Johnson. But the feud between them began before either player even entered the league.
During his senior year, Bird led Indiana State University to the national championship game. The opponent: Michigan State—led by Magic Johnson. After his impressive undefeated season, Bird's team was shut down by Magic.
The fire was lit. Bird wanted revenge.
He got his chance at the 1984 NBA Finals. It was Bird's Celtics versus Magic's Lakers. The battle took all seven games of the series, but Boston came out with the title. Bird had avenged his collegiate loss.
The ball was in Magic's court.
To the delight of the viewing public who were hooked by the Celtics and Lakers’ relit rivalry, the next season found both teams back in the Finals. The perfect rematch. This time around, the title went to Magic's Lakers.
For the next decade, the title was traded back and forth between coasts and the battle raged on. It was East Coast versus West. Hard-nosed play style versus flash. "Celtic Pride" versus "Showtime". Even when Bird and Magic weren't matched up against one other, their rivalry was felt. It turned basketball from a sport into a spectacle.
So how did the two go from sworn enemies to lifelong friends? One word: Respect.
There was always respect between the two players. Even through all the trash talk—on the court or in the press—there was admiration behind the teasing. They each knew they were pushing one other to play even better basketball.
When you talk about a big game, there are a lot of eyes on you to back it up. But neither Bird nor Magic was afraid of that pressure. In fact, behind their opposing playstyles and personalities, their competitiveness is their single greatest similarity.
Friendly rivalries are great motivators. They build each person up to their full potential. But without respect, you're just knocking one other down. “Respect” from the officially licensed NBA Legends canvas art collection is a message for all competitors. Hang it where you see it often and remember to keep it clean.