Monday, November 23rd, 2009 at 11:30 am  |  75 responses

Win Larry and Magic’s New Book!

Your chance to cop an autographed copy!

by Ryne NelsonWhen the Game Was Ours

For some people, the past defines them. They talk about the times of yesteryear like they were civilization’s greatest moments. Some people choose to remember the past so fondly that they barely seem to be present. Not only do these people make for poor company (‘Oh, it’s this old story again…’), but they often remember events to be more grandiose than what they were.

No doubt, the majority of reporters and fans who witnessed the 1980s NBA agree, it was Golden Era for the League and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, in no small part, were the heart and soul of that Era. And even if you didn’t experience the depth of rivalries and talent during that time, you’ve surely heard your fair share about it.

But very few have heard the stories straight from the era’s two biggest stars. Rest assured, this isn’t like listening to the same old story for the 52nd time.

If you put two TVs next to one another — one playing the 1987 Finals and the other playing the 2009 Finals — there would be major differences, and we’re not just talking about visual broadcast quality and camera angles! Clearly, basketball has changed in the past 20 years. The product certainly is different, but still full of instances ‘Where Amazing Happens’ (please remove these memories from history though, please!).

I believe the keys to a successful future for the NBA lie in its past. Books like When the Game Was Ours provide not only a unique perspective into a ‘Golden’ NBA landscape, but also inspiration and direction for the future. So, with that thought in mind, I pose this question: What aspects of the Magic and Larry Era — the 1980s and the early 90s — could improve today’s NBA?

Based on the responses, we will choose three winners to receive a hardcover, first edition book signed by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Have at it!

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  • Carter

    I think the physicality of the game from back in the day. Centers especially are getting called for everything and it slows the game down. The hand checking regs need to be scrapped and it’ll help bring back some real rivalries. All thats missing from the nba at the minute is the rivalries. Other than the old one of Boston – LA, the only thing that comes closes is Cleveland – Washington and that was based on a rapper fued.

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  • ampd

    i think one of the major things that the nba could take away from the bird-magic is fan loyalty. just look at the knicks: at least half of the garden crowd is there to see the other team, not the knicks. and lebron gets cheered more than any other knicks player. back then if you lived in a city, that was your team, and you defended them to the death. you would almost never catch a lakers fan in boston and vice versa. now there are fans of different teams in every city because they follow the big name players instead of repping their hometown

  • kaboom

    This past March marked the 30th anniversary of perhaps the most pivotal event in NCAA and NBA basketball history – the 1979 NCAA Championship Game between Larry Bird’s Indiana state Sycamores and Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans. Entering the league, the two rejuvenated the league and they were deemed saviors. To me, the Magic and Larry Era was defined by one word: LOYALTY. Loyalty to your team and perseverance to endure with one team through your career was a staple back in the 80’s. Free agency has toppled the shift of balance within the league as to where now, even Paul Pierce questions the balance of teams in the league. Teams such as the Lakers and Celtics had a consistent base of players where they were able to build team union and chemistry. Big money has changed today’s NBA landscape. Another aspect is how the game has adopted more rules and regulations trying to open up the game and trying to increase the scoring in the game. New rules were introduced to curtail hand-checking, blocking fouls and call defensive three seconds. Players such as Charles Oakley and Laimbeer were deemed hard-nosed, hard workers; if they played today, they would be considered dirty and cheap. Times have changed.

  • Hucklebuck

    I think more emphasis should be put back into the fundamentals and just the love of the game. Everything today is primarily based on athleticism and potential, instead of fundamentals and love of the game. Fans enjoy when sports are played well, when the fundamentals are established and the work ethic is there. If not, then its just a bunch of fast runners and high jumpers, ongoing “development” of young players. Most games today are the same-quick pace, guys trying to jump over another, either launching threes or trying to jump over people, no midrange game. Bring the “gym rats” back.
    With the “love of the game” aspect I believe they should allow open spots for former players of the 80s and 90s to serve as basketball coaches and mentors. Players such as Oakley, Barkley, Cooper, Pippen, Abdul Jabbar, Avery Johnson would all do just as well as Carlisle, Rivers, Del Negro, Skiles, and McMillan.

  • http://www.btylermargison.com B. Tyler Margison

    One great aspect missing is the player rivalries. You have team rivalries (Lakers-Celtics, Detroit-everyone, etc.), but the only real player rivalries are Kobe-LeBron or Kobe-Wade. The rivalries aren’t as intense and strong as they used to be, back in Magic and Bird’s days.

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    Well considering I didn’t see these guys except for VHS, and now NBATV.
    My hopes are that we can have the same Rivalry, that these two guys/teams had. We have so many fake Rivalry’s in the NBA today. We need some real ones. Hard grinding playoff series years and years. Bron and Kobe in the finals, gutting it out in game 7. We need a rock solid Rivalry, unlike Cavs and Washington.

  • Buckets

    Bring back the rules of the 80s and 90s and the rivalries.
    If they could bring back the rules of the 80s and 90s, guys would probably have less injury-plagued careers. Players would be allowed to bang more inside, and handchecking would be allowed to a certain extent. That in turn would allow players to work harder, make each other better, and the game overall all a joy to watch. Today’s game gives the perimeter players plenty of leverage and gives them more opportunities to score. Also, the paint should be a place where the bigs can bang for position, be allowed to body up, box out, and be tough.
    Rivalies, as mentioned in SLAM a week or so ago, makes the game so special. Celtics/Lakers and Bulls/Knicks are just two of the many rivalries of the 80s and 90s that brought the game to another level. The best part about them was that the game could tip to either side at any moment in the game. Boston wins one year, then the Lakers meet up and win the very next. Now, you can’t really say the same for the Bulls/Knicks because the playoff wins tip heavy to the Bulls, BUT the Knicks were up in many of the series and people BELIEVED they could win. Nowadays, what they call rivalries are too lobsided, even with one team never beating the other (Cavs/Wizards), and people more or less know eventually who is gonna win, and in today’s perimeter friendly league all the franchise players have to do is get touched and they pull the game and series out.

    RULES and RIVALRIES of the 80s and 90s!

  • OfficialEdgar

    1979-1998 is a golden Age of NBA..The era started with Bird and Magic rookie season in 1979-80 and ended with Michael Jordan second retirement from Chicago Bulls in 1998. I dont see anybody coming close to the intensity and winning nature of teams in the 80s and 90s. And hand checking was allowed we know Jordan was the best at that too! lol

  • charlie

    when does the contest close?

  • v15

    bring back the physicality of the game, bring back defense, and intensity. As well there are not a lot of dominant big men in the game anymore. Too much love is given to the perimeter guys, you gotta let guys get banged around a bit, tick tack fouls gotta go! The league is incredibly soft now, and as Charles Oakley put it, the league is all hype and marketing cause’ the product aint there no more!

  • Michael

    What needs to be brought back is a concentration of talent. Have you seen how stacked some of those teams were? We can’t go back but expansion has killed the league, so many non-franchise guys getting paid franchise money. This is naturally happening to a degree as poor teams shed salary and good teams pick up extra pieces. We also need to get rid of the lack of passion and pride, i want to see teams hate each other again like the celtics and pistons did.

  • robert stewart

    I would hope the guys in the league today would have the same attitudes as Larry and Magic. I truly believe they weren’t doing anything just for hype. Sometimes I think Lebron, Kobe, and Wade perform for the cameras and extra endorsements which I completely understand. It seems like they even play at higher levels when the games are televised or at MSG. But Larry and Magic played hard NO MATTER WHAT. I don’t even think they were aware of the cameras.

  • http://www.nbashoes101.blogspot.com Johan

    Simple: Handchecking could definitely improve todays game a lot, it maybe wouldn’t be “exciting” to watch for some – But it would be great for real basketball fans to see how difficult it actually was to score back in the day.

  • Pic

    I love that back in the day, role players really took pride in their craft. ML Carr, Kurt Rambis, Vinne Johnson, Mo Cheeks, even the Celtic-era Bill Walton, to name a few. These guys had different roles for their respective teams, and they owned their roles. Unfortunately, these days, too many players want to be stars, and would rather get more touches in a losing team. We’ve seen so many players excel at a valuable but intangible role for a winning team, only to bolt for an inferior team the following year for a chance to be in the spotlight. Do I fault them for this decision? No. They feel like they have some things left to prove, and I respect that. But I miss that part of the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevinwilson16 Kevin Wilson

    What we need is for the Larry Bird Exception to apply only to Larry Bird. Too many guys want max contracts after increasing their scoring average by four points per game, and there’s always a team dumb enough to re-sign them or acquire them through a sign-and-trade. Now, there’s a certain player in Houston who could be traded for the entire starting lineup for Oklahoma City, which is only half a game behind Houston in the standings as of this post, because a player wanted too much and his team gave it to him. Or there’s the case of a team that wins 30 games and has a bunch of free agents … and their best choice becomes resigning them all at 75 percent raises through the Bird exception, so they can keep a 30-win nucleus intact?

  • Dan Ilika

    Much like many things in life, basketball–and the NBA itself–can often be viewed as a sort of societal microcosm. We see paradigm shifts in society, we see paradigm shifts in the NBA. From race to class to economics, what is present in society can be seen under the microscope in the League. The Bird-Magic era featured aspects of all of the aforementioned issues, yet Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson found a way to let fans and the world bridge gaps and, for 48-minutes a night, focus on what mattered. What mattered was the game we all loved. The spirit of competition. Raw, team-oriented, perfect basketball. Friends. Rivals. Forget trade talks, rumors, off-court drama and Tweeting, the Bird-Magic era was about five on five basketball and that was it. If there was one thing I would love to have back it would be just that: the humble, for-the-love-of-the-game spirit that showed us what team basketball is all about.

  • Double J

    I wasn’t yet old enough to witness the game during the 1980′s, but from word of mouth and visualization of today’s inside game, the referees view of physicality needs to return to the form it descended from. Smaller guards can seemingly run into a large center (e.g. The Great Shaq Diesel) and get a foul called in their favor. Another atrocious situation is where two big men are battling for position and a foul is called on one of them. This isn’t that rough, I’ve seen worse in the intramural game at my college. So please, if David Stern could you think less about money and more about competition, and let these big men have more leniency when it comes to their physical play. The game will benefit greatly.

  • Double J

    Kill the “if” from the second to last sentence

  • OneSun

    The fact that players hated each other. Pure and simple. Nowadays everyone is hugging each other on national tv but back then, players would just glare across court at each other.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Charlie, don’t hold me to it, but we’ll keep this ‘open’ for about a week.

  • kev

    Let’s go back to the roots and to get there, we have to see how the game has changed. The game was more post oriented in the 80′s. The post was always the first option no matter what. Today it is a guard oriented, so making things happen out on the perimeter is where it is done mainly because there are few valid big men in today’s game. Today guys shoot an absurd amount of 3′s as compared to the 80′s. In the 80′s they played smarter on both ends and played close out defense. Bonehead plays were much less back then. Talent wasn’t spread thin with expansion. Since 1988 the NBA has added Orlando, Minnesota, Miami, Charlotte, New Orleans, Toronto, and Memphis. 7 teams times 12 players is 84 guys in the NBA that sit at the end of benches that have no right to be in the NBA in the 80′s. In the 80’s, bench players relished the role of contributing being an intricate part of the team. Now, players are looking for more money and looking to be the go-to-guy. The rules changed alot as well. Today the rules benefit the offensive player with the new handcheck enforcement since 2006 which was the same year Kobe exploded for 81 and Dwayne Wade took advantage of the rule in the NBA finals against Dallas and shot an insane amount of free-throws. I think that defense in the NBA has lagged big time, only a select few of teams play any real defense. In the 80′s if Kobe Bryant of Lebron James went off and got hot the big men would knock them to the ground and let them know this is a different game. Back then, a player dropping anything above 35+ was a truly momentous moment and was talked about for days. Now, players are scoring well above that and its just another night in the NBA. The league has shifted towards more of an offensive show. Let’s go back to the roots, where players played not for the endorsements, but for the jersey they’re wearing.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Alright first and foremost we need to get the “blue collar” attitude back into the L. Players complaining about their roles, and money is not what a hometown fan wants to hear. And every team has hometown fans, we need guys like Kurt Rambis who come out to do their job, that aren’t worried about statistics as much as they are worried about defending their basket and doing their job.
    Second) the rivalry – Bird and Magic, you can’t say one without the other, we just don’t have that anymore. The Celtics and Lakers have somewhat reckindled their rivalry but there still isn’t that level that Bird and Magic had. If Kobe and LeBron meet in the Finals more then once we could see something like this happen again.
    Third) The game – I want the game to be as important as the players playing it. Somewhere in the 90′s (ahem jordan) fans and the league became so transfixed on the stars that the games took a back seat. Rules have changed to improve individual statistics (hand checking – illegal defense) when the game is supposed to be about team strategy and winning.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Refer to the Charles Oakley article if you don’t get what I mean by blue collar. That dude was the Epitome

  • JoNaBo

    Definitely the physicality. That’s what defined that generation. Even that iconic photo of Magic and Larry on the cover is a perfect homage to the grind it out mentality of the NBA in their days. Without contact in the game the NBA lacks intensity. However, every once in a while, today’s NBA fans are given a treat by referees who decide to swallow their whistles, and we are able to get a glimpse of what the NBA used to be like. Bruising screens, battles on the boards, and hard fouls that aren’t considered flagrant. This is what makes it so irritating to then watch a game that might as well be a free throw contest. Today’s NBA needs the games to be decided by the players and not the refs, just like in the 80′s.

  • the rod

    I’m gonna go with the short and tight shorts definitely: look at what the fab five versions did to the career of so many players,last example is AI…also with shorts that short you got a lot more freedom in your movements!Quoting mars blackmon:”Is it the extra long shorts?”"No, Mars”. So long life to the extra short shorts!

  • airgui

    Bring back the basics of the game, the way players were willing to leave it all out on the hardwood, hitting the ground harder for a better look at a W. Championships were won fighting, not talking, goals were achieved by looking at your opponent in the eyes and loving your teammate, looking past the differences and towards the ultimate goal, the only piece of jewelry that matters, a gold-encrusted ring on your finger that gave you a sense of pride and respect you earned, infinitely more valuable than any jewel on your neck. Players first need to show respect to the game, rather than everything that revolves around it. To embrace the idea that the court is a safe haven which can never be touched by any form of commercial or entertainment intrusion is the lesson we have to understand from the past. The present is nevertheless promising, and the future of the game will be bright only if we remember our classics. Remember to take it one game at a time, one play at a time, for love is the respect of every moment.
    Bring back the game.

  • Ozrock

    Team play, actual rivalries that do mean something and bring back the short shorts, or at least someone wear some kareem googles again, yes amare I’m looking at you

  • http://slamonline.com dennis lao

    2 words. team play.
    2 more words. team first.
    another 2 words. fan loyalty.
    another 2 word answer. fundamentally sound.
    guess what, 2 more words. real MVPs.
    maybe 2 more words. finals annually.
    if you insist, 2 more words. pass first.
    2+2+2 words. alter games without shooting the basketball.

    many more 2 word replies:
    historical impact
    league revival
    golden era
    short shorts
    real rivalry

    and finally……..

    michael who???

  • Ball For Life

    Loyalty, Respect, and Passion. Magic and Larry played in an era, where basketball was played as competition and players “fought” to strive in it. Players would work together, with teamwork and played the game like it was life. Magic, Larry, Jordan, Dominique. This was the time where basketball was created. Fair competition, hard work, passion. The game was respected, and loved. It has changed. The game has changed. Players are arrogant, selfish, and care about only themselves. Fights are being present in games. Where has all respect gone? The NBA in the 80’s and 90’s had a different flow and style, where basketball was life. All Star Weekends have gone from pinnacle points, to deep lows. Players in the modern era, have to understand the value of their success, the actuality of the game. There are players in the NBA, that still do understand, but not as much. If players play with heart and dedication, the true game of basketball will come upon us once more. People remember the legends that have made this game, and we should use the merits and understanding of these legends, to make basketball a tradition, a lifestyle.

  • Adrian Dolinay

    we are missing so many different and great things from the Magic vs. Bird era. We are missing those awe inspiring sky hooks that Kareem used to throw up so gracefully from down in the post all the way up to the freethrow line. We are missing those nice, smooth and arched set-shots, (Not Jump Shots) that Larry Bird used to put up. We are missing that 6 foot 9 inch point guard that scared the crap out of every little man in the NBA. We are missing that great front court of the Celtics that had the fiery haired Danny Ainge who could knock down three’s at will and Dennis Johnson probably one of the best defensive point guards of his time. We are missing the shot blocking and rebounding ability of the strong and rough Michael Cooper. We are missing the gumbi and stretchy like Kevin Mchale that seemed to be 7’5 when he was only 6’11. We are missing the shooting ability and cunningness that James Worthy brought to the court. We are missing the ferocity and post scoring of Robert Parish. But most of all we are missing that fierce rivalry that was brewed over decades that competitiveness that both teams brought to the court. We are missing the passion that these teams had and the variety of skills they had. Hopefully someday this raging fued will be rekindled someday and bring back the glory days of the Celtics vs. Lakers.

  • Joe A

    The NBA is a victim of its own success. In the 80′s and early 90′s it was essentially a game for the die hard fans. The battles in the post and dives for loose balls were just as celebrated as the dunks and 3 pointers. Physical play was allowed on both sides of the ball. And the games always seemed fair. I’m a Celtics fan , but when the Lakers or Pistons would beat them in hard-fought series, I could always say to myself that the better team won. As the league became more popular, there was a shift to make the game more appealing to the casual fan. The casual fan doesn’t want to see a hard nosed defensive game or care about the intricacies of a triangle offense, they just want to see Kobe drop 40 in a game. The game became more superstar-centric; We now see rampant “superstar calls”. When elite players are forced into a bad shot, instead of going for an offensive rebound, they complain to the refs on why a foul wasn’t called. And worst of all, the game no longer seems fair. Has there ever been anytime in the league’s history when the officiating is as criticized as it is now?

  • http://slamonline.com denggoy

    NBA highlights today are mostly the result of 1 on 1 plays. Rarely do we see highlights that result from playing team basketball which was how it used to be during the Bird/Magic era.

    Like today’s NBA, most teams had their star/s but those stars played a “pass first” kind of game unlike most of today’s stars who can only think of racking up 40 points, slam dunks and doing fancy stuff to help their endorsement and marketing value.

    In other words, basketball then was team oriented while today’s NBA is more superstar oriented.

  • Mitch

    the physical play of back in the day definately needs to be put back into play. im so sick and tired of seeing a simple hand check call delay the game for at least a minute. teamwork also needs to come back into today’s game. you used to see kobe and lebron and d-wade “get theirs” whenever they want. this involved kobe becoming one of the biggest ball hogs before the gasol trade. look at the old dynasties! they all had solid teams with no selfish player in the middle complaining about not getting touches or getting points. all they cared about is winning, which brings me to my final point. WE NEED THE LOVE OF THE GAME BACK!! players are forced into the spotlight at such a young age these days that its hard for them not to get burned out after having almost impossible expectations to live up to. just cause someone is over 7 foot doesnt mean they HAVE to play in the L. Heart and love for the game should determine who gets those roster spots, not selfishness and greed.

  • Sam Raphael Chadwick

    1. LOYALTY

    1 – Loyalty to teams has some how stopped over the last decade kids are comming into the league and dont care who they play for they just want to get money, players like Hedo, Rudy Gay, Lebron. Players like Tim Duncan and Derrick Rose I feel really love their teams and will be there forever where as players like LBJ have already spoken about wanted to play everywhere and even playing a different sport if you loved cleveland you would take a ctract extension for the minimum you can get, if you loved your team.

    2 – Back in the old days tere were rivalries Boston -Knicks, Boston – Lakers, everyone had a rivalry with somebody but nobody has that anymore its also ue to the loyalty no-one truely loves their team and thats why their competition to beat the other team is less feirce lossing the rivalries tat once dominated this league.

    3 – By inside game im talking total domination by centers, centers who could drop step and dunk on you so easily, centers who could shoot a hook shot, not ceters tat go to the 3 point line and shot 3′s, let the shooting guard and small forward and point do that, centers get your butts back in the key and swat shots, dunk, learn how to post up and start to dominate like you did back when larry and bird were playing!

  • James Connaughton

    Friendly Rivalry

  • The Rudy Gay Pride

    1 – bring back the Larry Bird Drafting rules, where an NBA team can draft a player that is in college, and the player can stay in college until he is ready to go to the NBA. 2 – unfortunately probably need less teams, or need to ditch East vs West and move to a universal bracket system.

  • http://www.geocities.com/catpooptv Al

    I think that the aspects of the Bird/Magic Era that could improve today’s NBA were the players’ emphasis on winning, passing, and free-throw shooting.

    Because Bird wanted to win so bad he tried to take advantage of every aspect of the game. Bird passed to open teammates for easy scores. Bird shot a very high percentage from the free throw line to cement wins at the end of the game.

    Magic saw this and imitated it because his will to win was very strong too. Although he was already an adept passer he concentrated on improving his free throw shooting percentage the way that Bird did, although he was never as good Bird was in that area.

    Because everyone saw how much success both Bird and Magic had by focusing on the fundamentals, they too followed their lead by working on free throw percentage and especially passing. Almost everyone from that era was a good passer because of the Bird/Magic influence. Mullin, Barkley, Malone, Stockton, Jordan, Pippen. Better fundamentals bred better players which made for a better league.

    And even though the quality of play improved league-wide Bird and Magic continued to play beyond to transcendental heights; like Sistine Chapel angels looking down at the tourists below. Some of the players could come close to the ceiling depending on the night, but none lived up there permanently the way that Bird and Magic did.

    When the Jordan era came round more emphasis was placed on physical power and jumping ability. Jordan was powerfully influenced by both Bird and Magic but the style of his game made it less obvious. He did pass, though not as beautifully, and he did shoot a relatively high percentage from the line, though not as high as the angels.

    With the Jordan era came his imitators: Iverson, Harold Minor, Jimmy Jackson, Steve Francis. Talented players all, but lacking in the artistic beauty of the fundamentals that made Bird and Magic so great.

    The 1992 Barcelona Olympics marked the end of a beautiful era as Bird and Magic ended their careers as Gold Medal Co-Champions. Bitter rivals working as teammates at last. The epoch of Camelot ended at last.

    It is still fun to watch the NBA, but it will never be as good. It will never be as compelling. It will never be as wonderful when the best point guard who ever played and the best forward who ever played showed us how awe-inspiring the game truly could be.

  • http://slamonline.com NUPE

    I’d like to see the league bring back team basketball and the x’s and O’s. The game use to be like chess, each position of the floor had specific role it played and coaches had to determine how to best utilize each piece and strategically figure out how to beat the other team. It was about the team trying to figure out where the mis-matches were, setting picks, screens and positioning themselves during called plays. Defenses were trying to counter the offenseive strategy with their own. Focusing on how to move off of screens, where to attack the ball or how/when to switch defenders. It was a true team game where players had to have core fundamentals and a clear understanding of game strategy and counter-strategy. Today’s game is more about individual players and letting them create thier own shots. It’s not about how the team works together as much as how to give the ball to your best offensive weapon and everybody else just get’s out of the way and watches. We no longer have pure positions anymore, Lebron and Kobe handle the ball more than the point guards do. We don’t know if Duncan is a power forward or a Center. If Magic were playing today, he would be a forward, no a point guard – and that would be a shame considering he’s the greatest point to ever play. Chess is great because each piece has a role and it’s a matter of how you use each piece within it’s role to win (both sides have the same roles pieces, not one side with all rooks and two queens and the other with all bishops and knights. Basketball was created with specific positons/roles in mind. And today’s game has moved away from these roles which is what made baskeball great. Watching the Lakers of the 80′s initiate a fast break with a perfect no-look pass from magic or the Celtics set-up Bird coming off a screen for a wide open shot or pass inside was a thing of beauty. They were great athletes that played as a team to get a win. I really hope the NBA brings back the team game, where players and positons matter, execution of an offense matters. Let’s stop give the ball to ___ and get out of the way individual start game – great TEAMS win championships, not just great players.

  • humous

    There are myriad aspects of the Magic-Larry era that would improve today’s game, most notably:
    1 – Restoring the game while focusing less on the business. The blue collar, mustached Celtics fan sweltering in the Boston Garden with his beer belly protruding through his tight green shirt puts to shame today’s dapper fan, checking stock quotes on his Blackberry at Time Warner Cable Arena.
    2 – Restore rivalries. If you think there is bad blood today between San Antonio and Los Angeles, check out clips of the Lakers, Celtics, 76ers and Pistons teams of yore. They detested losing in the most visceral way.
    3 – Provide winning incentives. The contracts today are outrageous. If you lose a game, you are still going back to your mansion with your six-figure nightly contract intact, so no biggie. Twenty years ago, before salary explosions, these guys dove for every loose ball and went up for every rebound. Either implement a salary cap or provide greater financial incentives for each win.

  • Randy Brown

    2 words – coke, whores

  • http://slamonline.com John Milliken

    Just seeing these guys gives me chills!!! They were and still are the NBA. The greatest players of all time. I am a die hard Celtics fan and have a bar full of Celtic items. These guys bring me back to the days when I used to watch the games with my brothers and father. Those days are gone and we are far apart but when I see Bird and Magic a remember those days like it was yesterday. Basketball was some much better in the 80′s then it is now. It’s run and gun and no D; back then it was nothing but D and banging and no look passes and team play. I can not wait to read this book and see what they were thinking at the time they were the NBA. God bless The Legend and Magic Johnson!!!

  • J. Blackburn

    The aspects of the NBA in the 80′s and 90′s –the Magic/Bird era– that would benefit the current NBA game now are as follows.
    1. Real team/region rivalries like Chicago/Detroit and New York/Philadelphia and Portland/Seattle r.i.p. Sonics and of course Boston/Los Angeles Lakers were prominant in the 80′s and 90′s. Now with the watering down of rivalries by the relocation of star players and the expansion of the league the fierce city/team/east and west coast rivalries are not as common. Nobody goes to see Bucks vs. Pistons for the rivalry aspect, it is to see Brandon Jennings vs. Ben Gordon.
    2.Don’t get me wrong, the athleticism in the NBA currently is the best it has ever been and only getting better but what is missing that the Bird/Magic era had an abundance of is team, and therefore city/region, faithfulness. Players played for the community that paid them, not themselves. They weren’t out for theirs but instead played all out for their team and fans. I am not so sure that every NBA player currently could say that now. I am not foolish enough to believe that every NBA player back then played for their teams/fans/communities and not themselves but it wasn’t talked about as much as it is now–with players wanting to be traded, unhappy about minutes and roles ect..

  • http://www.sonicbids.com doyouwantmore

    It’s not that people don’t idolize players and defend their team to the death. Fans are still fans, and that part will never change. What I think is missing from todays era is innocence. We looked up to these guys because of their game, not their endorsements, not their reality-TV shows, not the girls they were spotted with (okay maybe a little on the GF tip), but strictly because of who they were on the court. The game isn’t diminished from the Magic and Bird era because something’s missing, it’s diminished because so much unnecessary stuff has been added. But that’s okay. The Game will always be bigger.

  • Gardi Royce

    The biggest thing that separates the NBA today and in years past is the loyalty to which players show their teams. Last year Turkoluog helps Orlando come one Courtney Lee dunk away from stealing the series and even though they didn’t lose anyone in the offseason, he bolts to Canada where no one ever does well. Just ask the guy who came in his place. But now a days players are solely concerned with how much money they make in their contracts and they couldn’t care less about loyalty to a team. Paul Pierce is the only player who stuck with his team and because of that he was rewarded with an NBA championship. The difference is that the players are more concerned with the name on the back of their jersey than the one on their front.

  • Dani Duncan

    The biggest thing missing from the Magic and Larry era is the respect and love for the game and competing that the two of them brought to the game. Rivalaries like Magic and Bird do not exist today in the NBA like that because it seems like the players do not take the game as serious as they did in the 80s and early 90s. A player being a scorer and a defensive stopper is almost non-existant and players often joke more instead of taking the game serious. Only a few seem like they would do anything to win a game while others do not care. In addition to the players attitudes being different, the media has also changed the game. We know how much money everyone is making, we know how many cars and houses everyone has and have even seen them. Being so into the players lives takes away from the game and does not help it.

  • http://www.hoopsvibe.com/nba/overdribbling/index276.html chiqo

    short shorts. weapons. and one on one games in french lick.

  • http://jmiphotography@yahoo.com Jeremiah Rosson

    I can remember back to when i was a teenager and i listened to the words of my godfather. He loved Larry Bird, a huge Celtic fan to say the least. I was emerging into a Laker fan…. Who wasnt in the Shaq and Kobe era? Hearing him talk about the friendly but serious competition these two stars had was riveting. I tried to think about bashing duos i have watched and he said there was no comparison. I would love to read through the pages of this book and see just how close an authors depiction of this battle is to my godfathers. After his death i sometimes try to remeber back to those conversations and remember that to me Bird vs. Magic wasn’t just two athletes going at it but an strong relationship between my godfather and myself. I wish I had those times back…..probably just like the NBA wishes a tandem of consistent basketball competition would reveal itself.

    Until next time …. Peace and have a good one!!!!!!!!

  • Gary Keating

    Team play of the game (Run TMC).
    The passion of the players for the game they are playing. Less teams in the league. Lastly, back to the times where the league played for the fans and less for the next paycheck (NBA it’s FANtastic).

  • Nick

    the main aspect of the 80′s and 90′s game that is lacking today in the nba is mainly the fundamentals . The game has taken a swing away from fundamentals and more toward how athletic you are. The focal point of some players today is their athleticism. Guys like Lebron and Dwight Howard are skilled, dont get me wrong, but what helps make these guys all stars above their competition is the outstanding athletic ability. The number of players today that have a healthy balance of athleticism and fundamentals like larry and magic did are subsiding. just look at how the free throw percentages have gone down over the past years. Free throw is arguably one of the most prominent fundamentals of the game, yet it is become a lost art. A return to the fundamentals in today’s nba already booming with athleticism would give today’s basketball an adge over all of the past decades.

  • Max L

    Truthfully, I believe that back in the days of the Bird/Johnson era, basketball was solely played for the love of the game. Throughout the 1970s,80s, and 90s, basketball was a conservative sport where people actually boxed out, dove for the ball, and didn’t care about tangible goods such as money as they did for team pride and spirit. In today’s generation, basketball has become a highly advertised sport that bolsters the individual, physical qualities of a player instead of the cerebral, collective qualities of a team. Bird and Johnson were extremely smart players, and came mentally prepared to every game in their careers. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to the prodigious amount of players today, and therefore the beautiful, immaculate plays that Bird and Magic once orchestrated are on the brink of extinction. In addition to that, the Magic and Bird era can improve the NBA today by emphasizing the humble, team-first thinking the two stars embraced. Presently, the NBA is saturated with lucrative contracts and endorsements that give athletes the incentive to play for money and fame overshadow the want for players to strive with others as a collective unit. Hopefully, a revival of basketball fundamentals will exhume the Bird and Magic Era, and ameliorate a basketball league that has been plagued with individualism, materialism, and unnecessary media expansion.

  • JDH21

    First off the NBA would not be what it is today without the Larry Bird Magic Johnson rivalry. It is fair to say that their arrival into the NBA saved the league. This same epic rivalry also gave new life to the NCAA tournament with their epic battle in 1979. UCLA had long been the dominant force in college basketball led by John Wooden. The 1979 final was a rarity though where two lesser known schools were led by two stars in Bird & Magic. To this day that game is still the highest rated college basketball game ever. Although Magic’s led Michigan State Spartans got the best of Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores on that day this would only be the beginning of the rivalry. With the structure of the league today it is rare to have a rivalry of this magnitude carry on so quickly to the NBA from the college ranks. This was a time where the concept of one and done was non-existent. When Bird and Magic were drafted by the two most heralded franchises in NBA history the stage was set for one of the greatest rivalries in basketball history. They transformed the NBA from simply a novelty in many people’s eyes into a form of entertainment. During the 1980′s the Celtics or the Lakers were in the NBA finals every year, playing each other 3 times. To this day there has never been a rivalry that changed the sport quite like Bird vs. Magic, and I don’t know if there ever will be. Never once did either of them demand a trade or go on a media tirade. They were true role models of the NBA and revolutionized the sport as we know it. To only make a few points of how the era of these two legends could improve the NBA today is injustice to both. Considering they saved the league as we know it and helped make it what it is today.

  • Taranvir Sandhu

    When does this end?

  • http://aol.com Martin Fenn

    Magic and Bird epitomized the term (and practically coined it too) “love for the game.” They played with heart and hustle simply for the welfare of the NBA. You always hear Michael Jordan say “I had the individual accolades, but I needed that ring to take me above Bird and Magic.” Dr.J put the fun into basketball and Magic and Bird put the creativity and spirit into the game and from there people like MJ added to basketball’s legacy. Today, superstars seek money and fame, while Magic and Bird could have made a living ballin’ for FREE. The love for the game needs to be reestablished by someone down the line, as Magic and Bird had done before our decade.

  • Ball For Life

    Its been over a week now

  • http://www.jameyburke.blogspot.com KobeWearsAPurpleThong

    1st off, we MUST get that NBA on NBC music back-even if TNT or ABC buys the right. “da da da da da da da DA..” Some of you youngin’s may have to Google it. Next, we have to bring back toughness-these guys missing game after game for these trivial, lame injuries has got to go. Next, no more arenas named for corporate sponsors. When Bird and Magic played, we had the Boston Garden, The Fabulous Forum etc. Now we have the FedEx Forum, Staples Center-ugh. And finally, the sneakers. Bird and Magic rocked very simply, yet dope Converse Weapons. Now we have all these ugly, ridiculous kicks. Kobe and Lebron with a different colorway for each game?? AWFUL-Keep it simple yet elegant fellas. We could all learn a little from YouTubing a little NBA on NBC Lakers-Celtics action….

  • Ali Saadat

    I think the Game today can use some more emotional freedom. You express as much emotion on the court than you could in the 80s and 90s. Magic and Bird played with so much emotion which made them that much more entertaining to watch. These guys love the game so much and its hard for them to lay with love when they can’t express their competitevness and heart. But then again, like you said in one the recent issues of SLAM, blame the Malice at the Palace.

  • Al

    Ryne, have the winners already received their books? Will the winner be announced? The suspense is killing me!

  • Ball For Life

    Please, when are u gonna annouce it !

  • rodman5179

    Plain and simple, Its all about the mateships of the players in the Golden Era. Bird and Magic, Sir Charles and Jordan, Dominique and the Detriot Bad Boys.
    Then they would step over that white line and F#@*ing kill each other.
    AHH the good old days.

  • Ball For Life

    Man its been more than a week!!!!! Announce the winners already

  • Ball For Life

    please announce the winners. For Christmas

  • joe

    i’m never going to do a slam contest again. lies…LIES!

  • God Shamgod


    Your killing us here. This is an awesome prize make the announcement already.

  • James Hernandez


  • John Rebelo

    As we aproach the 2010 off season everyone wants to know where Labron Wade and Bosh will sign. Back in the day players where loyal to there teams, guys would start and finsh thier career in the same city. The ego’s of players today are out of control you never heard Bird or Magic say make my team a winner or im leaving. The great players would make thier teams contenders, not ask to be traded to one.

  • Dunkman

    What I think should come back is the amazing teamwork of the Magic – Bird Era. If you compare game film from that era and a modern NBA game, you would notice the emphasis on passing. Whenever Magic or Bird had the choice to do it themselves or pass it to someone else, they’d pass it. Currently, players are so focused on taking it to the hole themselves, or making that big play themselves, that there are seldom plays where there are more than 3 or 4 passes. I would love to see an unselfish player like Magic or Bird come along and bring teamwork and passing back into the NBA.

  • God Shamgod

    Will there ever be a winner……..

  • Taylor Hackett

    There are so many different things that can be taken from the Bird/Magic days. Magic’s enthusiasm from day 1 where he jumped into kareem’s arms and kareem said calm down its only the first game! and magic said i dont care im always gonna be like this. Bird’s inspirational love for the game and dedication to practicing the fundamental’s and basics. These two players may not have been the best of all time, but they are sure one of a kind. Bird was not the most athletic, tallest, or strongest player; but he outsmarted and outworked more gifted athletes. Magic was such a badass some people don’t even realize his real nme is Earvin! Magic’s passing has drawn outlines for so many great players since him: chris paul, jason kidd, john stockton, and gary payton. He brought “Showtime” and excitement back into the NBA when it was in a slump. Without these two players revitalizing and rejuvenating the NBA; it may not exist today. I credit these two players for single-handedly saving the NBA. These players created the greatet rivalry of its era. Teams and players these days don’t get into rivalries or get as emotional as they used to. Going outside of the box and forgetting about the players and the league itself; i think the Arena’s and Fan bases are so much lower. During games their are so many advertisements and distractions away from the game that the fans don’t fall in love with the team and its players like they did in these days. Myself and others may still be die-hard NBA fans, but the population of us has considerably shrunk since Bird/Magic and eve the Jordan Era. I want to see the people who choose the season tickets of their team over a month’s worth of groceries. The players now play the game for the money, not the love of the game. I would love to see today’s game with the physicality of the 80′s and 90′s. Not these Tick-tack fouls left and right which take the best players out of the game. I would give anything to have seen these two players and their teams go up against eachother in the final’s during their primes. I want this book so badly I can taste it.

  • Charlie

    It’s been a looong week Ryne when the contest was supposed to be closed and 3 winners were to be announced. Make the cutoff 2 weeks from when you opened the contest up and announce the winners…

  • Ball For Life

    ya, like just pick winners already!!!

  • Who is Dnastee?

    Please announce the winners.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Winners were chosen and sent the books. Ryne will post their names in here soon. Sorry we didn’t close the contest.

  • http://Slam Jasmine

    Bird and Magic were both great players and will alaways be remembered. Why they inspire NBA stars from today to play hard to get to the sport were they were. Those two are legends and every NBA star wants to be like them. They dont just inspire the NBA stars they inspire the NBA nation. These to great players will alaways bring impact to the game.

  • http://Slam Jasmine

    Im sorry i ment spot instead of sport.