By the time that David Stern came into power as NBA commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984, the league was in the middle of one of the greatest player rivalries of all time. From their early days in college, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird drew the attention of the nation for their classic 1979 NCAA Championship Game. Both players breathed new life into a league that was lacking the star appeal that other leagues had.
The Bird vs. Magic rivalry would go onto be the focal point of the 1980s as the two players would reach the NBA Finals a total of eight times combined, with Magic’s Lakers winning five and Bird’s Celtics winning three. Magic and Bird would meet against each other a total of three times in the finals, each series becoming an instant classic. Magic’s Lakers would end up winning two out of three.
Magic and Bird were exactly what the NBA needed at the time and blended in with their respective cities perfectly. Magic’s big smile and lively personality, along with the Showtime Laker era, represented Los Angeles to the upmost, while Bird’s humbleness and hard work, with the “Big Three” Celtics, embodied Boston’s rural background flawlessly.
David Stern was able to come into office during the first year that the Lakers and Celtics would meet during the 80s. Game 7 of that series would become the most watched NBA game and second most watched basketball game, second to only the NCAA Championship when Magic and Bird first met. With the success of two storied franchises and their star players, Stern was able to turn the NBA into a nationally, and now globally, watched phenomenon.
With Stern set to retire in the coming hours, he payed tribute to the legends Magic and Bird via @Sportscenter:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 31, 2014
Stern will retire and hand the league over to Adam Silver with Mark Tatum taking over as the NBA’s new deputy commissioner. Silver will usher in a new era in the NBA after 30 years of Stern leading the way.
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