Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson
Bird and Magic battled each other head-to-head for more than a decade before eventually becoming life-long friends. Magic and Michigan State beat the Indiana State Bird in the 1979 NCAA title game. That game generated a 24.1 Nielsen rating, the highest ever for any basketball game, pro or college. Of course, back then there were only about five or six channels to choose from. The game itself was pretty much a snoozer, which Michigan State and Magic in control throughout a 75-64 victory. Bird got his rematch when the Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern finals and the Lakers dusted off the Suns in the West. The 1984 Finals provided all the drama that Bird and Magic’s first meeting lacked. The Celtics won two games in overtime and got to clock Kurt Rambis in the process after Bird called his teammates “a bunch of sissies.” Game 5 at the Garden was notable for its heat and Bird’s deliverance game in Game 7 at the Garden just four nights later. Bird and Magic met again in the 1985 and ‘87 finals, not to mention multiple commercials. But that first rematch was simply the best.