Review: “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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Review: “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals”

Movie poster

Last night, The Boston Celtics and HBO converted the Garden into a movie theater for an advance screening of "Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals."  It was an "invite-only" crowd of season ticket holders… but I managed to find my way in as a friend's "plus 1."

Garden movie

It was pretty cool to see the big screen hovering over the parquet with all three of Larry's banners hanging right above it.  Score one for the C's before the movie even started for the set up.  As a person who fell in love with this franchise in the Larry-Magic years… I was already giddy, even though I felt like I knew everything that was coming in the film.

Before the movie started, Wyc Grousbeck came out and said a few words along with HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg and Captain Paul Pierce.  I manage to catch a minute of Truth recounting the story of how Magic and Larry became friends during the shooting of their Converse commercial.

We also spotted new Celtics Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry… and then the lights went down and we were off on a 90 minute adventure back in time.

And it was awesome.  Yes, I knew a lot of it already.  I knew the story of Indiana St. vs. Michigan St. and how Larry had a bad game while Magic was launched into stardom.  I knew Magic and Larry each almost immediately led their teams to titles.  I knew all of the facts of the movie.  Most people do.

But to hear Larry and Magic talk, in depth, about their particular dynamic was fascinating.  Their personalities clearly shone through.  Magic is the smiling, showtime, loving-the-spotlight kind of guy that was perfect for Los Angeles.  Larry is reticent to the point of being stand-off-ish.  The head-down "let me do my job" guy that was perfect for Boston.  And those personalities fueled that rivalry as much as anything on the court did.  There were some great moments in the film where Magic would recount how he tried to approach Larry here and there and Larry was… how do I put this delicately… a bit of douche.  And then they'd cut to Larry and he'd say "yeah… that was all me.  I didn't want anything to do with him."  Just fantastic.

What this documentary showed the most, however, is how Larry and Magic were, at the core, the exact same person in completely different packaging.  The way they drove themselves… the way they approached the game… the way they reacted when they failed.  They were at the same time perfect matches and total opposites.

And that's when you realize that these two were playing a different game.  Neither would have been what they were without the other.  Larry needed Magic… and Magic needed Larry.  They always kept an eye on one another.  Neither felt they had an equal… except for that other guy.  In what is looked back on as the NBA's hey-day… Larry and Magic stood above the rest and only had each other to push themselves harder. 

The ending, which I won't get into here, is perfect.  It's not a montage… it's not a big, crazy flourish.  It's simply the perfect quote from Magic… and the perfect quote from Larry that ties the entire 90 minutes together. 

Even if you knew 99% of what happened in this film, that other 1% is worth your time.  An excellent look at this personal rivalry.  It premiers on HBO on March 6th… and it was so good that I might record it and watch it again.

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  • Shakers

    Does the movie have any information different than Jackie MacMullan’s new book about Magic and Bird? Your review of the movie is similar to what I would say about the book. I knew most of the information, but very much enjoyed the tidbits that I didn’t.

  • DRJ

    Does it deal at all with what happened round the time Magic announced he had HIV?

  • It’s very similar to the book. Jackie is featured very heavily in the film.

  • Very much so. It gets into the emotions Bird was feeling. He’s very candid about it. Magic cries when he talks about it. Its one of the moments that really solidified their friendship.