Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson: Stats, Championships & Head-to-Head Record

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Larry Bird Stats, Magic Johnson Stats, Bird vs. Magic, Head-to-Head Reocrd, Rings, Championships, Titles, Playoff Stats, MVPs

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With ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies” set to air on Tuesday night, there’s no better time to take a closer look at the rivalry within the rivalry: Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson.

Though they didn’t play the same position, and their games had plenty of differences, Bird and Magic’s careers–from their national championship battle that forever changed the sport of college basketball to their dominance of the NBA throughout the ’80s,–were and will forever be linked. They changed basketball for the better, and the debate about who’s better will always rage on.

Answering that question would take–and has taken–decades, but it never hurts to dive into the numbers.


Bird vs. Magic By the Numbers

Career Stats

FG%3PT%FT%REBASTSTLBLKTOVPTS
Larry Bird49.637.688.610.06.31.70.83.124.3
Magic Johnson52.030.384.87.211.21.90.43.919.5

Bird won three regular season MVP’s: 1983-84 (24.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.8 steals), 1984-85 (28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.6 steals) and 1985-86 (25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 2.0 steals). Interestingly enough, his best season in terms of player efficiency rating (PER) wasn’t any of those. It was the 1987-88 campaign, in which he averaged 29.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals. Some guy named Michael Jordan won it that year.

Magic also collected three MVP awards: 1986-87 (23.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 12.2 assists, 1.7 steals), 1988-89 (22.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 12.8 assists, 1.8 steals) and 1989-90 (22.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 1.7 steals).

Both players were named to 12 All-Star games, nine All-NBA First Teams and one All-NBA Second Team, while Bird was a three-time All-Defensive Second Team member.


Career Playoff Stats

FG%3PT%FT%REBASTSTLBLKTOVPTS
Larry Bird47.232.189.010.36.51.80.93.123.8
Magic Johnson50.624.183.87.712.31.90.33.719.5

Magic won five rings with the Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and was named Finals MVP for three of those (1980, 1982, 1987). Bird won three titles with the Celtics in 1981, 1984 and 1986, earning Finals MVP honors in the latter two.


Head-to-Head Regular Season Stats

In the first two NBA matchups between Bird and Magic, Basketball Reference doesn’t have rebounds, assists, steals, blocks or turnovers recorded. In those games, Bird scored 30 points, and Magic scored 24.

In the third matchup between them, Basketball Reference doesn’t have steals, blocks or turnovers recorded. In that game, Bird had 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Magic had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Here are the numbers from their other 15 regular-season matchups against each other:

FG%3PT%FT%REBASTSTLBLKTOVPTS
Larry Bird50.052.982.211.56.51.90.62.723.3
Magic Johnson49.735.386.66.712.72.60.33.920.4

In those head-to-head matchups, Magic’s Lakers went 11-7.


Head-to-Head Playoff Stats

FG%3PT%FT%REBASTSTLBLKTOVPTS
Larry Bird46.047.886.411.14.61.71.02.925.3
Magic Johnson53.340.083.87.513.52.20.43.420.7

They met three times in the Finals.

In 1984, the Celtics prevailed in seven games. Bird put up 27.4 points on 48.4 percent shooting to go with 14.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks in the finals, which included a 29-21 effort in a Game 4 win. In the losing effort, Magic averaged 18.0 points on 56.0 percent shooting with 13.6 assists, 7.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He put together a 14-point, 21-assist performance in Game 3.

The Lakers got revenge the following year, with the series again going seven games. Magic averaged 18.3 points, 14.0 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals. In a must-win Game 6, he came through with 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting and 17 assists. Bird, meanwhile, had 23.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals.

In the “rubber match” 1987 finals, the Lakers won in six games. Magic was unreal, averaging 26.2 points on 54.1 percent shooting, 13.0 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals, while Bird tallied 24.2 points on 44.5 percent shooting, 10.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals.