"Magic is at his very best in the open court," Newell says. "He's so big and so knowledgeable that if you don't pick him up, he'll take it right to the hoop and dunk it on you. A lot of guys in the middle of a three-on-one break make spectacular passes, but they're to the wrong man." Magic is also probably the best there's ever been going from end to end. He can rebound it, dribble it and dunk it on you without any help at all.
HE'S A MONEY PLAYER. There isn't much of an edge here because Bird has almost always come through with big plays in important games. But consider this: Johnson was the MVP when his team won the NCAA championship, the MVP in the championship series when the Lakers won the '80 and '82 titles, and in Game 6 of the 1980 finals, he played what may have been the single greatest all-around game ever. With Abdul-Jabbar out with a twisted ankle, Magic played center and scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out seven assists. This is Magic's fourth championship series, so he's had more opportunities to play in big games than Bird, who's making only his second appearance in the NBA finals. When the Celtics beat Houston for the title in 1981, Boston forward Cedric Maxwell was the playoff MVP.
Both Bird and Magic will try to ignore the comparisons during the championship series, but that won't make what is special between them any less apparent. "Comparisons don't mean nothing to me," Bird said before the finals began. But West hasn't forgotten how he and Robertson each sought some slight edge in the inevitable comparisons between them. "If somebody were to tell you they weren't aware of that," West says,, "they'd be lying. In every big ball game, playing against someone you're being compared to, you're going to be more keyed up. When that happens, the chance for someone truly great to do something phenomenal is always there."
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