Turner and the NBA announced today that basketball icons Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird will be co-recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia. TNT will televise the third annual NBA Awards live on Monday, June 24 at 9 p.m. ET from Barker Hangar in Los Angeles. The two previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award were Bill Russell (2017) and Oscar Robertson (2018).
With their epic rivalry, individual brilliance and team success, Johnson and Bird helped define the modern NBA and elevate the league in the 1980s. The rivals turned friends both earned three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, nine All-NBA First Team selections and 12 NBA All-Star nods, along with being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and securing spots among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. They were also teammates and co-captains on USA Basketball’s gold-medal-winning Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics, which was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, making Johnson and Bird two-time honorees.
Johnson and Bird have epitomized greatness dating to their memorable clash in the 1979 NCAA Tournament, when Johnson lifted Michigan State past Bird-led Indiana State in the national championship game, which is still the highest-rated game on television in college basketball history. Both made an immediate impact in the NBA the following season, with Johnson leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship and Bird capturing Rookie of the Year honors with the Boston Celtics.
A three-time Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award recipient, Johnson won five NBA championships and helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals nine times. Renowned for his extraordinary court vision and unique flair as a tall point guard, Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game in 13 seasons with the Lakers. He ranks fifth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.
Johnson retired in 1991 after announcing that he was HIV positive, becoming an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. He returned to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, where he was named MVP after an unforgettable performance, and later came out of retirement to rejoin the Lakers during the 1995-96 season. Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Now a successful entrepreneur, Johnson is Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises and co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Football Club and esports franchise Team Liquid. He owned shares in the Lakers from 1994-2010, when the franchise won five NBA championships. Johnson served as the Lakers’ head coach during the 1993-94 season and as their President of Basketball Operations from 2017-19. His broadcasting career included a stint with Turner Sports.
Like Johnson, Bird played his entire 13-year career with the same team. He led the Celtics to three NBA championships and was honored as the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP twice. A premier shooter and adept playmaker from the forward position, Bird has career averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
After his playing career, Bird flourished as a head coach and executive with the Indiana Pacers. He was named the 1997-98 NBA Coach of the Year in his debut coaching season and guided the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals in each of his three seasons. In 1999-2000, Bird coached Indiana to its first NBA Finals appearance.
Bird had two stints as the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, winning the 2011-12 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award. He is the only person in NBA history to win the MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards. Bird now works with the Pacers in an advisory role.