The basketball rivals turned friends dominated the sport on the professional level in the 1980s, both earning three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, nine All-NBA First Team selections and 12 NBA All-Star nods, landing them amongst the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.
Johnson and Bird were also teammates and co-captains on the USA Basketball Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal and were both inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, making Johnson and Bird two-time honorees.
The pair was also responsible for the highest-rated televised game in college basketball history in the 1979 NCAA Tournament, when Johnson‘s Michigan State beat Bird’s Indiana State in the national championship. The following season, Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship and Bird earned Rookie of the Year with the Boston Celtics.
Johnson retired from basketball in 1991 after announcing his HIV positive status and becoming an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. He returned to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game, where he was named MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. Bird played with the Celtics his whole 13-year career and led the team to three NBA championships and was honored as the NBA Finals MVP twice. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
The third annual NBA Awards will air live on TNT Monday, June 24th at 9 p.m. ET from Barker Hangar in Los Angeles.
Congratulations to both NBA legends!