Winner 2010

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals

HBO Sports

In any arena—sport, politics, even religion—there are occasions when key individuals emerge as defining figures. In such instances the very meaning of those larger arenas is intensified. The beginning of one such occasion may have occurred in the 1979 NCAA Championship basketball game between Michigan State University and Indiana State University. In that game Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played against one another for the first time. For a decade these rivals would come to exemplify basketball, sports rivalries, fandom, loyalty, victory and defeat. The distinctions, some would say clashes, between their personalities would cast a different light on each of those categories. These are among the claims running throughout this expansive documentary, and if the claims seem too large, they are surely expressed by Magic and Bird themselves, and established in the media myths surrounding them. No punches are pulled here in examining the personal antagonisms. Equally, there are moments expressing the deep respect and strange affection these two hold for one another. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals beautifully captures the most personal, the most intense, the most charming, and the most meaningful features of a great competition that took place on and off the court, and for this it receives a Peabody Award.


Executive producers: Ross Greenburg, Rick Bernstein. Producers: Ezra Edelman. Narrator: Liev Schrieber.