In the 1980s, the NBA was dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Those two teams dominated the league for most of the decade. During the matchups between those teams, the focus of the games tended to be on Larry Bird from the Celtics and Earvin “Magic” Johnson of the Lakers, both of whom are, appropriately, enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.
Now, news has come that Apple has landed a new docuseries focusing on the life of Magic Johnson. A four-part series, the show will follow Johnson’s early life in Lansing, Michigan, to becoming a superstar with the Lakers, with whom he won five NBA championships. The series will also focus on Johnson’s HIV status and how coming out with his positive status helped him to become an entrepreneur and activist. The news of the docuseries came just ahead of the 30th anniversary of his November 7th announcement of his HIV status.
Apple has called this docuseries an unprecedented look at the NBA Hall of Famer. They state that the series will feature never before seen footage and interviews with Magic Johnson as well as businessmen and politicians who have had dealings with the former NBA star. Members of his inner circle will also provide interviews for the series. Dirk Westervelt (Ford v. Ferrari) serves as the doc’s editor, while Rachel Morrison (Black Panther) will serve as cinematographer. The show is produced in association with H. Wood Media and Delirio Films.
Magic Johnson is an NBA Hall of Famer and a five time NBA champion with his Lakers. He also was a member of the 1992 “Dream Team” at the Summer Olympics that went undefeated in winning the gold medal that year. Despite retiring immediately upon learning of his HIV status in 1991, Johnson never really left the game, making several short-lived comebacks as a player and spending time as a commentator and as an executive.
But it is really his rivalry with Larry Bird of the Celtics that he is known for during his playing days. Johnson and Bird were first linked as rivals after Johnson’s Michigan State squad defeated Bird’s Indiana State team in the 1979 NCAA finals. The rivalry continued in the NBA, and reached its climax when Boston and Los Angeles met in three out of four NBA Finals from 1984 to 1987. Johnson asserted that for him, the 82-game regular season was composed of 80 normal games, and two Lakers-Celtics games. Similarly, Bird admitted that Johnson’s daily box score was the first thing he checked in the morning.
The rivalry was also significant because it drew national attention to the faltering NBA. Prior to Johnson and Bird’s arrival, the NBA had gone through a decade of declining interest and low TV ratings. With the two future Hall of Famers, the league won a whole generation of new fans, drawing both traditionalist adherents of Bird’s dirt court Indiana game and those appreciative of Johnson’s public park flair. According to sports journalist Larry Schwartz of ESPN, Johnson and Bird saved the NBA from bankruptcy.
Despite their on-court rivalry, Johnson and Bird became close friends during the filming of a 1984 Converse shoe advertisement that depicted them as enemies. Johnson appeared at Bird’s retirement ceremony in 1992, and described Bird as a “friend forever”; during Johnson’s Hall of Fame ceremony, Bird formally inducted his old rival. The Magic series joins an Apple docu slate that also includes Boys State, The Velvet Underground and the Beastie Boys Story, among others. This news comes from The Hollywood Reporter.