SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Earvin "Magic" Johnson and five others will be enshrined Friday night into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Johnson, who received his Hall of Fame jacket Friday morning, will be introduced by Larry Bird.
It is only fitting that Johnson and Bird are together again. In basketball annals, the pair is joined at the hip.
There was the 1979 NCAA Championship game, in which Johnson's Michigan State Spartans were too much for Bird's Indiana State Sycamores. That contest it is still the highest rated NCAA title game and laid the foundation for college basketball as it is known today.
"We seemed to be linked together ever since that championship game," Johnson said. "Every time, even today, any article that's mentioned it's 'Bird, Magic, Bird, Magic.' He helped me get here and he's probably the biggest reason I'm here."
Their rivalry continued in the NBA, with Johnson winning a title as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird bouncing back the following year, leading the Boston Celtics to the crown.
The two finally met in the NBA Finals in 1984, with Bird's Celtics getting the better of Magic's Lakers in a seven-game series. They met again in 1985 and '87, with Johnson winning both.
"The great thing about our relationship is that we got along pretty well and we're friends, but once we stepped out on the basketball court, believe me, we were enemies," Bird said. "I always knew when I got under his skin a little bit. He would never curse me or never really get mad at me, (but) he would always go, 'OK, that's what you want. OK, that's the way you want to play the game, OK.'"
The pair raised the bar for a league that was floundering and possibly heading for oblivion.
The two men also were teammates on the original "Dream Team" that stormed through the 1992 Olympics to win the gold medal in Barcelona, Spain.
Johnson was elected in June in his first year of eligibility. One of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, he spent his entire playing career with the Lakers and is currently their vice president, and holds a small ownership stake.
As a 6-9 point guard, Johnson revolutionized the position and teamed with Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to help the Lakers win five NBA titles. He averaged 19.7 points, 11.4 assists and 7.3 rebounds in 874 career games, retiring as the all-time leader in assists.
He was a three-time MVP, and also was named MVP of the NBA Finals in 1980, '82 and '87. He was voted First Team All-NBA every year from 1983-91 after being named to the second team in '82.
He was a 12-time All-Star in his 13-year pro career.
Brown is the only coach in NBA history to lead
six different teams to the playoffs, and has over 1,000 wins in the NBA and ABA.
Brown also won the NCAA title with Kansas in 1988. The three-time ABA Coach of the Year had a 229-107 record with the Carolina Cougars and Denver Nuggets, and has a total record of 1,240-823 in 29 years as a coach, including 834-655 in the NBA. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2001.
Olson is one just eight people to coach in five or more NCAA Final Fours. He guided Arizona to the 1997 NCAA championship. He also coached at Long Beach City College, Long Beach State and Iowa, and owns a career record of 767-255 for a winning percentage of .750.
Olson's 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and 39 NCAA Tournament wins are third among active coaches. In 19 seasons at Arizona, he compiled a 471-143 record and, over the last 15 years, has recorded the nation's best winning percentage of .805 with a 401-97 mark.
Yow ranks fifth in women's college basketball history with 625 career victories, and guided North Carolina State to the Final Four in 1998.
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame opens Saturday after undergoing $103 million worth of construction.
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