“I almost went off the road” – Larry Bird on his reaction after hearing fake news about Magic Johnson’s passing

“I almost went off the road” – Larry Bird on his reaction after hearing fake news about Magic Johnson’s passing

Larry even called a reporter after learning the story wasn’t true.


Back in the 2000s, Larry Bird heard a report about Magic Johnson’s death from an Indianapolis-based reporter in the middle of his drive around the city. Having no idea that the report was apparently a hoax, Larry Legend described what he felt when he first heard the news.


“I almost went off the road. I got this pit in my stomach and I really felt like I was going to lose it. I hung up and called Jill Leone, my agent, right away. She got on the phone with Lon Rose, Magic’s agent and he told her it was a bad rumor, that Magic was fine. I called that TV guy back and said, ‘Don’t ever do that to me again,'” Bird wrote in the New York Times best-seller entitled “When the Game Was Ours.”


Beyond brothers

Johnson has been a target of fake death news multiple times after he contracted HIV. The same thing happened this May 2024, but once again, it was proven to be a hoax.


That said, The Boston Celtics legend will always be associated with Johnson for their incredible rivalry that saved the NBA in the ’80s. But for Bird, Magic is more than just his rival.



Since their pre-college days, Larry had already been playing against Johnson. The two spent most of their basketball careers together, following each other from the NCAA to the NBA—they became the faces of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.


By the time their careers were over, Bird realized how much Johnson meant to him personally. As a result, the two legends are great friends to this day.


The best part about Magic’s game

One of the biggest reasons Bird was very familiar with Johnson and his game—besides the fact that they were rivals—was that he always studied him. The Celtics legend admitted that he never figured out one aspect of Johnson’s game.


“He controlled the tempo of the game like nobody else I’ve ever seen… I never had any idea what he was going to do with the ball,” Larry added.


Bird and Johnson will always be known as two of the greatest players ever who saved the NBA. But for them, they see each other more like brothers. The two legends have a one-of-a-kind bond no other all-time greats will ever replicate.


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