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Magic Johnson compares Caitlin Clark-Angel Reese rivalry to his with Larry Bird

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Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson made a bold comparison on social media on Monday in a post about up-and-coming WNBA stars Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese.

While Clark and Reese have downplayed the idea that there is a rivalry between them, Johnson likened their situation to that of he and Larry Bird when they were both in the NBA in the late 1970s.

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Magic Johnson, wearing number 32 for the Los Angeles Lakers, on the court during an NBA game at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles in 1988. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)

The rivalry between Johnson and Bird culminated in the 1979 national championship game between Magic’s Michigan State and Larry’s Indiana State. The game marked the beginning of a long rivalry that has continued into the NBA between the Lakers and Boston Celtics. Both players have won multiple NBA championships, and Johnson sees the same happening in the WNBA.

“When I think about the impact Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese have had on basketball, I am reminded so much of Larry Bird and me. Our first matchup, the Indiana State vs. Michigan State game in the NCAA Championship, set the highest viewership record in the history of men’s basketball,” he wrote on X. “Caitlin and Angel’s 2023 NCAA Championship matchup and 2024 Elite Eight game were the highest viewership records at the time.”

The Fever’s game plan came under scrutiny due to Caitlin Clark’s lack of shooting, and the team squandered a 15-point lead against the Sky.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in 1992

Larry Bird (left) and Magic Johnson of the U.S. men’s basketball team sit on the bench during a game at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, in 1992. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Larry and I increased the overall popularity of the NBA. The Lakers and Celtics were filling arenas throughout the league and television viewership grew exponentially. The increased viewership led to the NBA signing significantly larger television contracts which in turn led to increased player salaries.”

“Now Kaitlyn and the Angels are doing the same thing, filling arenas and increasing viewership. They’ve taken the women’s basketball world by storm, and with television rights contracts expiring, the WNBA is now in a position to negotiate bigger TV rights deals and increase salaries for all of its talented players.”

The Chicago Sky defeated the Indiana Fever 88-87 behind Reese’s eighth straight double-double. Clark set a Fever franchise record with 13 assists in a game.

But neither side acknowledges the budding rivalry between them.

“I think you’re the only ones that look at this as a rivalry,” Clark told reporters after the Fever’s win over the Atlanta Dream on Friday night. “To us, it’s just a basketball game. That’s what it is. If it helps basketball move forward, then yeah, great. That’s the way it should be. People can talk about it.”

Reese was asked about it by ESPN’s Holly Rowe after Sunday’s game.

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese at the Draft

Kaitlyn Clark (right) and Angel Reese attend the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15 in New York City. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

“It’s just a competition,” Reese said, “I mean, they still beat us, they’re one spot ahead of us, so I’m happy for my team. And I’m happy for us. Chicago came out on top tonight, so I’m happy for us.”

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