Johnson, who won five National Basketball Association championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, joins fellow hall of famer Michael Jordan in saying they would focus more on beating their rivals than joining them.
“We didn’t think about it cause that’s not what we were about,” said Johnson, whose Michigan State squad beat Bird’s Indiana State team in the 1979 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship. “From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird.”
James, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, left the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 8 after seven seasons to sign with the Miami Heat. There he will join fellow All-Stars Wade and Chris Bosh, a free-agent who joined Miami from the Toronto Raptors. James has never won a title, though he led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and semifinals.
Bird, a hall of famer who played for the Boston Celtics, and Johnson also faced each other in the NBA Finals three out of four years from 1984-1987, with Magic’s Lakers winning twice.
Jordan, a six-time NBA champion and currently the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, made his comments over the weekend at a charity golf tournament. Johnson spoke about the possibility of joining Bird and Jordan on the same team in an interview this morning at Baruch College in New York.
“It was never a question in our mind because nobody has ever done that,” he said.
Johnson, 50, joined the Lakers in 1979 and played for them until 1991. He also played in 32 games in the 1995-96 season. He won three MVP awards and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Johnson now owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, a Beverly Hills, California-based business that owns retail outlets including movie theaters and coffee shops around the U.S. His current project with Chicago-based Aon Corp., an insurance services company is designed to promote minority businesses.
Johnson said James, 25, also has a bright future once his NBA career is over.
“I think he will be, one day, a great businessman,” Johnson said. “The first order of business for LeBron is to win championships. If you build your brand on the court, then that will take care of the off the court brand.”