NBA legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird accepted the lifetime achievement award at the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia on Monday in Los Angeles.
Bird spoke first, lobbing a few jokes at Johnson’s expense before opening up about the talent he sees on the court among the young players in the room,
“You see these old broken down NBA players talking about their era,” he remarked, noting that sometimes former NBA stars believe themselves to be better than today’s athletes. Said Bird, “it’s just amazing how these guys are playing the game, i couldn’t be more prouder of them.”
Johnson followed, kicking his speech off with a thank you to Jerry Buss for drafting him “back in the day.”
He thanked his “beautiful wife” Cookie Johnson before praising Bird. “Man, I think we pushed each other to greatness. And everyday I watched your box score … thank you for pushing me, and I hope I ddid the same for you.”
Johnson, 59, of course famously played point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers for 13 seasons, while his one-time rival Bird, 62, played for the Boston Celtics for the same amount of time. Both men were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 as part of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, for which the athletes served as co-captains.
The men were announced as co-recipients of the award earlier this year with the NBA citing “their epic rivalry, individual brilliance and team success.”
“Johnson and Bird helped define the modern NBA and elevate the league in the 1980s,” the NBA announced in a release.
In addition to their many accolades, both men have each earned 3 NBA Most Valuable Player Awards and 12 NBA All-Star nominations.
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Johnson and Bird follow in the footsteps of Bill Russell, who received the honor in 2017, and Oscar Robertson, who won the lifetime achievement award in 2018.