MAGIC & BIRD: A COURTSHIP OF RIVALS,
EXPLORING BASKETBALL’S FIERCEST RIVALRY, DEBUTS MARCH 6
The HBO Sports documentary MAGIC & BIRD: A COURTSHIP OF RIVALS, chronicling the fierce rivalry between basketball legends Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, debuts SATURDAY, MARCH 6 (8:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Other HBO playdates: March 6 (11:30 p.m.), 9 (4:15 p.m.), 11 (8:30 a.m., 7:00 p.m.), 14 (8:30 a.m.), 17 (noon, 8:00 p.m.), 20 (11:30 a.m.) and 23 (7:30 p.m., 3:10 a.m.), and April 2 (1:55 a.m.) and 5 (6:30 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: March 8 (3:30 p.m.), 12 (7:30 p.m.), 27 (4:30 p.m.) and 30 (noon, 8:30 p.m.)
HBO On Demand availability: March 8-28
The film traces the history of the competition between Los Angeles Lakers immortal Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Boston Celtics great Larry Bird, which began 30 years ago when they led their midwest universities to the 1979 NCAA Championship game, through a decade of dominance, when the two won three NBA MVP awards apiece and a combined eight NBA titles. Debuting on the eve of March Madness, the exclusive HBO presentation also examines the different cultures that helped shape them and contributed to their unique styles, as well as exploring their unlikely friendship.
Though sharing Midwestern roots and following the same team-oriented philosophy, the introverted Bird (from the small town of French Lick, Ind.) and the extroverted Johnson (from the industrial state capital of Lansing, Mich.) couldn’t be more different in personality. The two superstars talk about each other at length in the film and provide intimate insights into their remarkable lives.
The special’s high-profile list of interviewees also includes: Hall of Famer Pat Riley, who coached Johnson on the great Lakers teams of the 1980s; teammates Kevin McHale, Cedric Maxwell and Michael Cooper; George Fox, Johnson’s high school coach; siblings Evelyn Johnson and Mark Bird; entertainer Arsenio Hall; former CBS Sports executive Ted Shaker; and sports journalists Bryant Gumbel, Jackie MacMullan, Charles Pierce and Steve Springer.
HBO Sports’ documentary group has earned 28 Sports Emmy® Awards and seven Peabody Awards for production excellence.
The executive producers of MAGIC & BIRD: A COURTSHIP OF RIVALS are Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein; produced by Ezra Edelman; edited by Charlie Olivier; written by Aaron Cohen; music composed by Gary Lionelli; narrated by Liev Schreiber.
Highlights from MAGIC & BIRD: A COURTSHIP OF RIVALS:
HBO Sports’ Bryant Gumbel: “One of my pet peeves always is when people say, ‘Oh, Michael Jordan saved the NBA.’ Bullshit. ‘Magic’ and Larry saved the NBA.”
Larry Bird: “They talk about it every day somewhere. If I go to a foreign country, it’s ‘ “Magic”, where’s “Magic?” ’ It’s the same everywhere…We got this connection that’s never gonna be broken. I mean, right to our graves. They’ll be talking about this a hundred years from now.”
“Magic” Johnson: “We don’t have to see each other. We don’t have to say hello. We don’t have to call each other. You know you got this tight bond with this cat. And you don’t have to see him for a year or two. But you’re always gonna be linked to him.”
Bryant Gumbel: “I think he [Bird] was a mystery to the extent he wanted to be a mystery. He didn’t enjoy doing interviews. He didn’t go out of his way to do them. He wasn’t particularly good at ‘em. He was kind of like, ‘Hey if you wanna know who I am, watch the game. That’s who I am.’ ”
Larry Bird on French Lick, Ind.: “I didn’t know that people made millions of dollars. I didn’t know that everybody had a family car. I was in my own cocoon. I was in a small town with the people I knew, and I thought I would live there for the rest of my life.”
Jim Jones, Bird’s childhood friend: “I saw Larry take an ‘F’ in an English class…because he had to get up in front of his peers and give a speech. He said, ‘I won’t do it.’ He just could not get up in front of his friends and talk.”
“Magic” Johnson on the nickname given to him after his high school varsity debut: “In the beginning I thought…it was dumb. I didn’t know nothing about a nickname. And then you start saying, ‘Wait a minute, it fits my game.’ And then people in the street start saying, ‘Hey “Magic.” ’ And I said ‘Hmmm.’ ”
Sister Evelyn Johnson: “He bought into it. I think he felt like he had to kind of live up to that name. And I must say that he did. He had to look the part. Play the part.”
George Fox, Johnson’s high school coach: “He loved it. The more attention he got…Earvin liked attention. He wanted attention from anybody he could get it from. Earvin was the first guy to have a posse. He not only had a posse of a lot of black kids, he had a lot of white kids he was hanging around with.”
Larry Bird on “Magic” Johnson: “I thought he was very good. There’s no question about it. Actually, I thought he was probably the best guard on the team. We didn’t get to play a lot [in the World Invitational Tournament] but you could tell.”
“Magic” Johnson on Larry Bird: “We came down a couple of times, I go behind my back, ‘no look’ [pass] to him. He gets it and ‘no look’ back to me. And I’m laying it up. And I said, ‘Oh man. This guy got game.’ ”
Larry Bird: “When you play with ‘Magic’ there’s just something about it. You wanna make that extra pass; you wanna get that rebound and start to break.”
Larry Bird on Indiana State’s loss to Michigan State in the 1979 NCAA Championship game: “I didn’t play well at all. Biggest game of my life, I didn’t play well. I didn’t shoot well. Missed, I think, three free throws. I mean, I battled ‘em. But I didn’t have it.”
“Magic” Johnson: “I knew it was gonna haunt him forever, ‘cause we were gonna see each other a lot.”
Author Jackie MacMullan: “I think ‘Magic’ wanted to be friends with Larry Bird. He wanted to be friends with him on the World Invitational Tournament team and Larry just wasn’t very receptive. I think he wanted to be friends with him during the Final Four. But Larry wouldn’t even go over and shake his hand. So now ‘Magic’ ’s saying, ‘Well what’s with this guy? Everybody loves me. How come you don’t love me?’ Then they get to their rookie year – the first time they play each other they have a very hard foul, and they have to be separated a little bit. And ‘Magic’ ’s going, ‘Alright well the heck with this guy. You don’t like me, fine. Alright, good. I don’t like you either.’ ”
“Magic” Johnson: “The vibe, it was nasty, it was ugly. We didn’t like each other.”
Larry Bird: “I’m the one that did all that, to tell the truth. I just didn’t want to be hanging around him. I mean, that was my main competition.”
“Magic” Johnson: “Even though I won the championship, I still wanted to win Rookie of the Year [won by Bird], too.”
Larry Bird: “He won the championship and I was pissed. I wanted one.”
Larry Bird: “I’d get up in the mornings and see what he did, ‘cause their games came on late. Then you look at the box score. I had to have him there for some reason. Like a crutch. Somebody I can compare myself to.”
“Magic” Johnson: “I hated what was being said that Larry was better than me and that, you know, I’m just a guy who can control the game. My first four or five years that bothered me a lot. I didn’t tell nobody that it bothered me, but it did.”
Bird’s teammate Kevin McHale: “Larry and ‘Magic’ could control the game with 12 shots. It was amazing. They’d be seven for 12, they’d have 20 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. And you go, ‘Man, he shot the ball twelve times and was the best player on the court by far.’ ”
Jackie MacMullan on their enduring friendship: “It’s almost like a private little club, and only the two of them are in it. And every once in a while they need to show up to have a reunion and pay their dues to each other. But they don’t need the day-to-day contact that most friends need. It’s just not that kind of relationship.”
Larry Bird: “But I always get this good feeling when I know I’m gonna see him because he makes you feel good, he really does. He’s unbelievable.”
“Magic” Johnson: “He’s very private, but if he’s your friend, you got a friend for life. And Larry Bird is a straight shooter. He’ll tell you when he don’t like you. That’s one thing I wish I could have that he has that I don’t have.”
Larry Bird: “I mean, if he walked in here, this whole room would change. And maybe that’s what I always wanted to be, but I just couldn’t.”