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Old 06-23-2014, 06:41 PM   #1
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Default Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?



Makes little sense to me. In his prime (rookie year through 88), here are the final in-conference opponents Bird's teams faced:

1980 PHI (59-23, 4.04 SRS, 13/22 O, 2/22 D)
1981 PHI (62-20, 7.76 SRS, 8/23 O, 2/23 D)
1982 PHI (58-24, 5.74 SRS, 5/23 O, 7/23 D)
1983 MIL (51-31, 4.32 SRS, 10/23 O, 6/23 D)
1984 MIL (50-32, 4.04 SRS, 12/23 O, 2/23 D)
1985 PHI (58-24, 4.17 SRS, 4/23 O, 11/23 D)
1986 MIL (57-25, 8.69 SRS, 4/23 O, 2/23 D)
1987 DET (52-30, 3.52 SRS, 9/23 O, 5/23 D)
1988 DET (54-28, 5.46 SRS, 6/23 O, 2/23 D)

Magic's teams (start with whichever year you like for his prime):

1980 SEA (56-26, 4.24 SRS, 8/22 O, 3/22 D)
1981 HOU (40-42, -0.20 SRS, 9/23 O, 16/23 D)
1982 SAS (48-34, 1.79 SRS, 3/23 O, 13/23 D)
1983 SAS (53-29, 3.10 SRS, 2/23 O, 15/23 D)
1984 PHO (41-41, 0.65 SRS, 10/23 O, 13/23 D)
1985 DEN (52-32, 2.05 SRS, 5/23 O, 15/23 D)
1986 HOU (51-31, 2.11 SRS, 5/23 O, 14/23 D)
1987 SEA (39-43, 0.08 SRS, 6/23 O, 17/23 D)
1988 DAL (53-29, 3.59 SRS, 3/23 O, 15/23 D)
1989 PHO (55-27, 6.84 SRS, 2/25 O, 5/25 D)
1990 PHO (54-28, 7.09 SRS, 3/27 O, 6/27 D)
1991 POR (63-19, 8.47 SRS, 2/27 O, 3/27 D)

Years they had common playoff opponents:

1980 PHI
1981 HOU
1982 PHI
1986 HOU
1988 DET

How is this not a huge deal? Was it talked about a ton at the time when the two were compared at the time?

Last edited by fpliii : 06-23-2014 at 08:40 PM.
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Old 06-23-2014, 06:53 PM   #2
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

It was always said that the east was the tougher conference far as physical toughness. The conference that played gritty ball. Nobody hated on magic for the weak west though. Maybe when I was too young to remember. Mid to late 80s I never heard it brought up.
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Old 06-23-2014, 06:56 PM   #3
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kblaze8855
It was always said that the east was the tougher conference far as physical toughness. The conference that played gritty ball. Nobody hated on magic for the weak west though. Maybe when I was too young to remember. Mid to late 80s I never heard it brought up.
Oh, I'm certainly not trying to encourage that in this thread. But shouldn't it be a legitimate point of contention when people discuss the two? I'll hear it occasionally in comparisons, but only as an aside.
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Old 06-23-2014, 06:58 PM   #4
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kblaze8855
It was always said that the east was the tougher conference far as physical toughness. The conference that played gritty ball. Nobody hated on magic for the weak west though. Maybe when I was too young to remember. Mid to late 80s I never heard it brought up.
That's still the case but the talent disparity just favors the West immensely.
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Old 06-23-2014, 07:01 PM   #5
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpliii
Oh, I'm certainly not trying to encourage that in this thread. But shouldn't it be a legitimate point of contention when people discuss the two? I'll hear it occasionally in comparisons, but only as an aside.
Considering how close people put Magic and Bird considering Magic's by far better postseason resume, I think it is acknowledged.
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Old 06-23-2014, 07:07 PM   #6
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

One reason is the Lakers always played well against the Eastern Conference teams... Really well


Nobody with a brain tries to use todays weaker East against Lebron and Co...

Doesn't matter where you play when you win
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Old 06-23-2014, 07:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by navy
Considering how close people put Magic and Bird considering Magic's by far better postseason resume, I think it is acknowledged.
You'd think so, but I have a feeling that the vast majority of the board has Magic clearly ahead. Not that I have a problem with this, it just seems strange IMO.

Playoff series against common opponents:

1980 PHI
Bird - 22.2/13.8/3.6 on 44% shooting
Magic - 21.5/11.2/8.7 on 57% shooting

1981 HOU
Bird - 15.3/15.3/7.0 on 42% shooting
Magic - 17.0/13.7/7.0 on 39% shooting

1982 PHI
Bird - 18.3/14.1/7.3 on 41% shooting
Magic - 16.2/10.8/8.0 on 53% shooting

1986 HOU
Bird - 24.0/9.7/9.5 on 48% shooting
Magic - 22.2/8.0/16.2 on 53% shooting

1988 DET
Bird - 19.8/12.2/6.2 on 35% shooting
Magic - 21.1/5.7/13.0 on 55% shooting

Head-to-head Finals matchups

1984 Finals
Bird - 27.4/14.0/3.6 on 48% shooting
Magic - 18.0/7.7/13.6 on 56% shooting

1985 Finals
Bird - 23.8/8.8/5.0 on 45% shooting
Magic - 18.3/6.8/14.0 on 49% shooting

1987 Finals
Bird - 24.2/10.0/5.5 on 45% shooting
Magic - 26.2/8.0/13.0 on 54% shooting

Quote:
Originally Posted by gts
One reason is the Lakers always played well against the Eastern Conference teams... Really well


Nobody with a brain tries to use todays weaker East against Lebron and Co...

Doesn't matter where you play when you win

Do you think it was because they had mismatches (late prime Kareem earlier on, and the fast break for most of the rest of their run)? Or do you think they just showed up in the Finals?
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Old 06-23-2014, 07:23 PM   #8
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kblaze8855
It was always said that the east was the tougher conference far as physical toughness. The conference that played gritty ball. Nobody hated on magic for the weak west though. Maybe when I was too young to remember. Mid to late 80s I never heard it brought up.

Not hating on it but it is pretty evident that it was weaker than the east at the time, IMO
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Old 06-23-2014, 07:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpliii

Do you think it was because they had mismatches (late prime Kareem earlier on, and the fast break for most of the rest of their run)? Or do you think they just showed up in the Finals?

The biggest reason was the Showtime Lakers were really good... they made 9 trip to the finals over the years, you don't do that unless you're a rock solid team... Lebron talks about how tough it is to make the finals 4 times, Kobe Shaq Jordan talked about the energy it took to make the finals 3 times, Lakers made it 9 times over that span and they had t beat some pretty good teams to do it

They matched up against anyone, could play fast or slow and they played defense every bit as tough as the Eastern teams...

People hear Showtime and think the team was some fast break juggernaut that only tried to run and that couldn't be farther than the truth... Their offense started on defense, they'd push the ball but just as often bring it down the floor and play inside out...

The beauty of Magic was it allowed the Lakers to be a very opportunistic team, he could thrive in any situation and they Lakers had a player for every situation. They had to be a tough team to game plan against

They were fun to watch, they'd play in Denver one night and the Nuggets would try and run the Lakers into the ground and the Lakers would run with them and beat them at their own game... two nights later they're grinding it out in a defensive battle

Last edited by gts : 06-23-2014 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 06-23-2014, 07:48 PM   #10
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gts
The biggest reason was the Showtime Lakers were really good... they made 9 trip to the finals over the years, you don't do that unless you're a rock solid team... Lebron talks about how tough it is to make the finals 4 times, Kobe Shaq Jordan talked about the energy it took to make the finals 3 times, Lakers made it 9 times over that span and they had t beat some pretty good teams to do it

They matched up against anyone, could play fast or slow and they played defense every bit as tough as the Eastern teams...

People hear Showtime and think the team was some fast break juggernaut that only tried to run and that couldn't be farther than the truth... Their offense started on defense, they'd push the ball but just as often bring it down the floor and play inside out...

The beauty of Magic was it allowed the Lakers to be a very opportunistic team, he could thrive in any situation and they Lakers had a player for every situation. They had to be a tough team to game plan against

They were fun to watch, they'd play in Denver one night and the Nuggets would try and run the Lakers into the ground and the Lakers would run with them and beat them at their own game... two nights later they're grinding it out in a defensive battle
Good shit. Showtime ended a couple years before I started watching, and watching available playoff games doesn't allow one to get a perfect idea of what went on.

Thanks for the breakdown.
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:11 PM   #11
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Thing is, there wasn't a huge debate.

Most acknowledged Bird is better.
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:15 PM   #12
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubio2Gasol
Thing is, there wasn't a huge debate.

Most acknowledged Bird is better.
So what changed things then? Did Magic's play from 89-91 when Bird was no longer himself make the difference? Or is it revisionist history?
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:33 PM   #13
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpliii
So what changed things then? Did Magic's play from 89-91 when Bird was no longer himself make the difference? Or is it revisionist history?

Pretty sure people just tend to give Magic the bump because he has more titles and played flashier.
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:37 PM   #14
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

The info on 1980 Magic is wrong. He faced the Sonics, who went 56-26 (and won in 5).

Conference strength is not necessarily ignored, but what can't be ignored either is what "forced" you to stop in 1988, while you covered almost all of Magic's career. Magic still swept 55 win Phoenix in '89, beat 63 win Portland without HCA and while you may argue that (for various reasons) he didn't win another title, neither did Bird in his last years (also for various reasons) while facing inferior teams compared to his prime seasons.
As for the other below 50 win opponents, the 1981 Rockets obviously weren't the most powerful Western team based on R.S wins, just the ones that beat the Lakers (Magic, having missed more than half the season, had arguably his worst series), for 1984 you have a point, in 1987, the Sonics upset the 55 win Mavs (this upset has been historically forgotten). Which brings us to the question: If we are to "discredit" a team like the Sonics who only won 40, but beat a 55-win team and the '81 Rockets, are we to do the same for 2 of the 5 Celtics' opponents in the Finals (both Rockets teams)? Based on records, neither had been powerhouses and, ironically, their 3rd title also came against a team that had a below their standards regular season, while they lost both Finals when the opponent had won 60+ games.
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Old 06-23-2014, 08:40 PM   #15
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Default Re: Why is conference strength often ignored when comparing Magic and Bird?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpliii
So what changed things then? Did Magic's play from 89-91 when Bird was no longer himself make the difference? Or is it revisionist history?
Well it isnt really revisionist history. Magic shouldnt be brought down because Bird was no longer himself. I personally think Bird gets a huge boost because of how good his peak play was.
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