Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. However you want to stack them up, they are two of the greatest basketball players of all time. No doubt. No question. Bar none.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were polar opposites, especially Off the basketball court. Yet they both contributed characteristics that each of us could find valuable in our own lives, timeless values that we could all learn from.
Here are a few things every great leader should learn from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
1. Have a vision and go for it.
Both of these two men knew from a young age what they wanted to do. Although they had different beginnings and took different paths to get there, they both ultimately knew that they wanted to and truly believed they would, play basketball.
2. You don’t have to like your competitor but you have to keep up with their stats.
In the beginning Larry Bird wasn’t very fond of Magic Johnson, after all, he was his number one competitor. But everyday Bird would read the paper and follow the stats of Magic Johnson. If you follow your competitor’s stats you know what you have to do to beat them.
3. Arrive early and be prepared.
Larry Bird would arrive to games 2-3 hours early. He would prepare himself for games by running around the arena through the bleachers and standing on the court alone shooting baskets. Bird was always prepared. Great leaders should always arrive early and do whatever it takes to stay on top.
4. Race Shouldn’t Matter.
Although racial tension in the 1970’s heightened these two ball players’ rivalry, at the end of the day it came down to who was the better player. Great leaders should never let a person’s race sway their decisions. Black, white, yellow or brown, the person more qualified for the job or the task at hand should be your first consideration.
5. Be a team player.
In the late 70’s, early 80’s, the NBA was not the great entity it is today. Attendance was low. Games weren’t shown live but replayed on a delay, and each player was only interested in showcasing their own skills. It wasn’t until Bird and Magic started leading their teams that they began to pass and rely and depend on their teammates. The key to being a great leader is to always encourage the team to be engaged with each other, highlighting individual strengths, but never overshadowing another’s weakness. Where one teammate is weak, another will be strong.
6. Winning is the name of the game.
Win or lose, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson never went into a game believing they would lose. They always went to a game believing they would win. They had a job to do and the job was to win games. No matter what type of leader you are or what type of business you’re in, you should always expect your team to win. You won’t win every time, no one does, but to lead through a positive expectation to win creates a goal for your team to be successful.
7. Take chances.
Bird and Magic knew that they had to sometimes take chances to win ball games. Whether it was a last second shot from the deep corner, or passing to a teammate who was less than perfect at a particular play, these two players took chances. And through their chances, the NBA really had a big turn-around and became what it is today. Without taking risks, you may never know what ‘could have been’.
Thanks to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson for allowing me to be inspired by their magnificent lives and their back stories.