Replacing Legends: The NBA’s Struggle To Find the Next Bird-Magic Rivalry

True rivalries are by far the greatest aspect of sports for fans.  Not last-second buzzer beaters, not Cinderella stories, or even championships.


Rivalries are everlasting.  Rivalries create excitement for even the most mundane contest.  Rivalries turn rational businessmen into petulant children when their side loses. 

Rivalries create tall-tales you tell to bore your children and grandchildren with: You wax poetic about the pageantry, the greatest game, the greatest players, and the greatest "holy s---" moments.

Finally, you highlight one of the two pillars of great rivalries: pure hatred toward the opposition.

Every fan of the opposition is a spawn of Satan. Every one of their star players is on steroids, amphetamines, or antelope testosterone.  You feel the hatred in every fiber of your being.

While fuel the fire that burns every rivalry, the greatest rivalries are ignited organically.

Take the greatest individual rivalry (save for possibly Ali-Frazier) in sports history—Larry Bird and Magic Johnson—for example.

There is absolutely no reason a white small forward from French Lick, Indiana should hate a black point guard from Lansing, Michigan and vice versa.  Well, other than race, and neither Magic Johnson nor Larry Bird is or were ever racists.

Beginning with the 1979 NCAA Championship game, hatred grew and spawned not only a great rivalry, but also one that would save American professional basketball from its demise.

When reminiscing about the rivalry, Magic Johnson recalled having one resounding feeling toward his old rival and now great friend:

"I disliked the guy...I hated the guy."

In the book "When the Game Was Ours," written by Bird, Magic, and's Jackie MacMullan, the two players speak of their mutual respect and hatred for one another. 
Article Source: Bleacher Report - Los Angeles Lakers