NEW YORK (AP) — Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, whose coast-to-coast rivalry in the 1980s propelled the NBA to a new level of popularity, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Hall of Famers and 1992 U.S. Olympic teammates will receive the award on June 24 at the NBA Awards, the league and Turner Sports announced Wednesday.
The honor comes on the 40th anniversary of their meeting in the 1979 NCAA championship game, when Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Bird’s Indiana State squad. That is still the highest-rated game on television in college basketball history.
The two would see plenty more of each other across the next decade after Johnson went to the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird to the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won five championships in the 1980s and the Celtics won three, and the interest they drew forged a friendship and helped the NBA move past its struggle for mainstream attention and set the stage for basketball to become one of the world’s most popular sports.
Both players won three MVP awards, earned spots on the league’s list of 50 greatest players and were two-time…