Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals is a documentary produced by HBO that chronicles the parallel careers of two of basketball's most well-known and beloved stars, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird. From their humble beginnings to NBA championships to retirement, this documentary spans their rivalry, friendship, and relentless will to win.

Released 2010; Runtime 85 minutes

  • Race & Ethnicity Issues: There are many, many examples of race throughout the documentary: how desegregation affected Magic's high school career, racism towards white players, Bird being dubbed the "Great White Hope" because basketball was "too black," and their rivalry being played up as "black versus white."
  • Economic Issues: Both players had humble beginnings, with Magic growing up in Lansing, Michigan, the son of poor working class parents, and Bird growing up in rural French Lick, Indiana, also the son of poor working class parents.
  • Injury & Illness; Sexuality: Towards the end, the documentary focuses on Magic's contraction of HIV/AIDS, which forced him to retire. Interviewees discussed how many people questioned Magic's sexual orientation because at the time, HIV/AIDS was seen as a disease heterosexuals did not contract. There is also a focus on Bird's playing style, various subsequent injuries, and the amount of pain he was managing, which ultimately caused him to retire.
Reader Note: Lots of race issues throughout the documentary. Great for a sport sociology course or a general discussion of race in sports.