Magic and Bird: Beneath the Hardwood

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

If you’re a basketball fan and you don’t know anything about the Magic and Bird rivalry than I wonder what you consider basketball. Lame jokes aside these two players are famous for their greatness on the court as well as impact on the NBA itself. And as somebody who has done some research on the subject and read plenty of literature, there usually isn’t much to surprise me.

But despite my prior knowledge, “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” did add some new and intriguing perspectives on the topic. Sure I may have known a bit about the personalities of these two legendary ballers but it’s fun to see them in more of an informal environment.

And that’s one thing that most good documentaries succeed in: making you feel like you’re sitting down with these people. We all know Magic Johnson has a fun personality and always smiles but it’s even more emphasized when you see him freely talking about some of the dark and tough times of his life. Not everything is fun and games for this guard and his dual-identity.

What I really enjoyed about the movie was how much of an appreciation you get for Larry Bird. Unlike Magic, Bird is known more for avoiding the media and not talking a lot. In fact the film brings that point up many times. But he opens up and lets you know how he truly feels about so much that happened. And to make it even better, his responses come with the classic Bird-like bluntness and humor.
Larry didn’t worry about people criticizing his game or where he went to school or how smart he was, it was all about winning especially over Magic Johnson. And that’s what the documentary really hits home on. These two legends were born into very different environments but both had this drive to be great and the other was always standing in the way. And after one of them reaches a height, you feel happy for them followed by sadness for the one that sunk.

When it comes to a story that has been emphasized over and over throughout the discussions of the NBA, you have to find something new to add. It can’t just be about the games they had or the historic moments, it’s more about the people underneath and how they dealt through the ups and downs of their career. In fact the only real negative to this film is when it seems to just reinvent the wheel at certain points. Instead the moments where you see the true Larry Bird or the dichotomy between Earvin and Magic Johnson that this documentary really starts to stand out.

Sure we all know Magic and Bird saved the NBA (as Bryant Gumbel “candidly” puts it) so any movie on the topic has to give me more. “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” is an inside look at the two greats into who they are and what makes their relationship so special. Even if you’re tired of hearing about the legendary rivalry, this is still a documentary you shouldn’t pass.

+ Danny Reiter is the producer of the Dan Sileo Show

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