MAGIC AND BIRD
Many thanks to Bruce Newman for his excellent piece on the Laker-Celtic/ Magic Johnson- Larry Bird rivalry (Together at Center Stage, June 4). This championship matchup is the best thing to happen in the NBA since these two marvelous players entered the league.
Bird is a great player, maybe the best forward ever, but Magic is unquestionably the most complete player in the game today. Statistics aside, Magic has an uncanny instinct for the game and can do anything necessary to help his team: scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, defense—and that's only half of Magic's game. The intangibles he provides—heart, court savvy and, most of all, boundless enthusiasm—make him my choice for MVP. Just imagine how much brighter Johnson will shine after the great Kareem retires, leaving much more of the responsibility for the Lakers' success with the Magic Man.
May the Lakers-Celtics/Magic-Bird final-round confrontations continue for years to come!
Monmouth Beach, N.J.
Bruce Newman must be kidding! Magic Johnson is a very fine player, but when he himself says Larry Bird is the best, that should prove the point. Bird wasn't blessed with extraordinary physical ability, so he has had to work extra hard for all he has accomplished. As a 16-year-old who plays basketball, I would model myself after the unflashy, hardworking, never-quit Bird.
Jefferson, S. Dak.
Bruce Newman's claim that Magic plays the more vital position is like arguing apples vs. oranges—teams have been championship contenders without a true point guard (the Celtics this year) or without an outstanding power forward (the 76ers last year). The most important position, of course, is center, and Magic has had the good fortune to play his entire pro career with perhaps the best ever, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
As for the better defensive player, even though Magic is a perennial league leader in steals, he doesn't play in-the-trenches defense. Bird, on the other hand, has been voted one of the 10 best defensive players in the NBA each of the past two seasons.
The notion that Magic has been the better money player may seem superficially attractive in light of Michigan State's conquest of Indiana State in 1979. But one must recall that Magic had two teammates, Jay Vincent and Greg Kelser, who have gone on to NBA careers; Bird almost singlehandedly put his school on the basketball map. His stellar performances led his team to NCAA tournament victories over such powerhouses as DePaul (with Mark Aguirre) and Arkansas (with Sidney Moncrief).
Newman also neglects a phase of the game that is both vital and easy to measure: free-throw shooting. Magic is a good foul shooter (.810 for the 1983-84 regular season); Bird's .888 ranks him as the best in the league.
RICHARD KOGAN, M.D.
New York City
Is it fair to compare Larry Bird's shooting while he's double- and triple-teamed to Magic's shooting when nobody is covering him and daring him to shoot? Is it fair to compare the rebounding of Johnson over Western Conference foes who are smaller than he is to Bird's shooting over taller Eastern Conference forwards? Is it fair to compare Magic's assists to Bird's when Magic has the ball in his hands every time up the court? Is it fair to compare two players in two totally different situations? No. So can we please leave it by saying that both are truly amazing and exciting players?
Hyde Park, Mass.
STEFAN HUMPHRIES' EXAMPLE
When my friends and I get together during the summer after school lets out, we spend a great deal of time talking about sports, each of us bragging about his college. Being from the University of Michigan, I've had an automatic edge in these arguments. I've had Stefan Humphries' name to drop.