Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry


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Magic Johnson
and Larry Bird, former rivals turned friends, collaborated with basketball reporter Jackie MacMullan and wrote a book, published this week, titled ‘When the Game was Ours.’

Of all the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals, one of the most legendary, and for Lakers’ fans one of the most bitter, was in 1984 when the Lakers outplayed the Celtics in the first four games, but blew two of them, and ultimately lost the seventh game and the championship at the Boston Garden.


That spring, Celtics fans tried to intimidate the Lakers when they flew into Boston. Back then, NBA teams flew on commercial flights, not charter planes:

When the Lakers landed at Logan Airport ... they waited nearly an hour for their bags, emblazoned with the purple-and-gold Lakers emblem. When the luggage finally appeared on the conveyor belt, many of them were unzipped. Nothing was missing, according to Magic, ‘but the message was clear. It was just Boston’s way of letting us know we shouldn’t get comfortable here.’

... [After getting hounded by Celtics fans at the airport, Johnson] was relieved to finally reach the team bus -- until he noticed the driver was wearing a Celtics shirt. When he stepped up to the counter at the team hotel to check in, the manager who assisted him also proudly wore Celtics colors.’Even the curtains in my room were green,’ Magic said.

In Game 2 of the series, the Lakers blew a chance to win the game in regulation when Johnson misjudged the time left and passed too late for Bob McAdoo to take a shot. The Celtics won in overtime to even the series.

Bird contends that Magic may have been a victim of a Celtics home-court advantage. In 1984 shot clocks were not positioned atop the baskets, as they are today. In Boston there were huge electronic boxes on the floor displaying how much time was left on the shot clock, but more often than not they were obstructed by a court-side photographer or a fan who had draped his or her jacket over it ...Bird said ... ‘’ bet Magic couldn’t even see how much time was time was left. I never could. What I used to do was check the time during the timeout, then count down in my head once I got out there.’

-- Barry Stavro