NEW YORK (AP) Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, whose coast-to-coast
rivalry in the 1980s propelled the NBA to a new level of
popularity, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Hall of Famers and 1992 U.S. Olympic teammates will receive the
award on June 24 at the NBA Awards, the league and Turner Sports
The honor comes on the 40th anniversary of their meeting in the
1979 NCAA championship game, when Johnson’s Michigan State team
beat Bird’s Indiana State squad. That is still the highest-rated
game on television in college basketball history.
The two would see plenty more of each other across the next decade
after Johnson went to the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird to the Boston
Celtics. The Lakers won five championships in the 1980s and the
Celtics won three, and the interest they drew forged a friendship
and helped the NBA move past its struggle for mainstream attention
and set the stage for basketball to become one of the world’s most
Both players won three MVP awards, earned spots on the league’s
list of 50 greatest players and were two-time Hall of Fame
inductees, first as individuals and then with the Dream Team that
captured the gold medal in Barcelona.
Bird went on to serve as both coach and president of the Indiana
Pacers and is the only person in NBA history to be voted MVP, Coach
of the Year and Executive of the Year.
Johnson also held both roles with the Lakers, though not with the
same level of success. He served a short stint as coach (1993-94)
and recently stepped down as team president after two seasons. His
larger achievements since his playing days have come in the
business world as CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises.
Bill Russell was the first Lifetime Achievement winner in 2017 and
Oscar Robertson was honored last year.