Olden Polynice Explains Why Larry Bird Was Better Than Magic Johnson

Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein, NBAE/Getty

Olden Polynice Explains Why Larry Bird Was Better Than Magic Johnson


When speaking about the 80s NBA, there can’t be more popular names than Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Two of the greatest players of all-time saved and laid a foundation for the NBA that was on the brink of ending, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Bird and Johnson dominated the league and shared an intense rivalry that went on for a decade. In the 80s, Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty to five championship runs, while he won three Finals MVPs. Meanwhile, Bird and the Boston Celtics grabbed three championships, with Bird taking two Finals MVPs.

Both players defined the past era and had a fair share of success, but who was actually the better player? While it’s pretty much a toss-up, former NBA player Olden Polynice, who played against both, made his case for Bird being the better player during an interview on ‘In The Zone with Chris Broussard’ podcast.


“I’m going to give you Olden Polynice take on this. Magic yes, showtime and everything else, but I gotta go with Bird. He can get his own shot off. He can involve his teammates. Basically, what Magic was able to do plus be an offensive treat all the way up to the three-point line. That is an incredible asset. They are pretty much the same size, they were both slow. They weren’t leapers. But Bird with that outside three and they were both high IQ guys, but I have to give the edge to Bird.”


Polynice also believes that there’s a division among the players in the league in the sense that race was a factor in regard to the debate. Polynice thinks black players were in favor of Johnson, while white players were rooting for Bird. But for Polynice, it was purely all about basketball. 


“Black players gravitated towards Magic, and the white players gravitated towards Bird, and the people with sense could see the difference. It wasn’t about color or anything else. It was all about hey this guy here can ball, and that is why we used to look at Bird and think maybe he is not white because he’s got a lot of swag.”




Both Bird and Magic brought out the best in each other and were able to co-exist perfectly. Their careers had been intertwined since their college days, so it’s hard to talk about the former without bringing up the latter – it all boils down to preference about who’s the better player.

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