“I heard that Converse made a pair of Bird shoes for last year’s MVP.”
“Well they made a pair of Magic shoes for this year’s MVP!”
And with that, the Lakers’ #32 steps out of his limousine, rips off his glistening yellow tracksuit bottoms to reveal the shortest of short shorts, ready to launch onto the court to play his fiercest opponent, who for some reason has his white tee tucked into his denim. We’re definitely in 1986, and we’re not just slap-bang in the middle of the greatest, most infamous rivalry that the National Basketball Association has yet seen, we’re still well and truly in the reign of Converse.
The Bird Shoe. The Magic Shoe. Choose your weapon.
And that’s how it was billed: The Number One Weapon in the NBA. And that’s how it was advertised, positing the Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird against the Los Angeles’ Lakers Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson as vying for Converse’s clientele.
A competition formed in the NCAA, 1979 had seen Michigan State led by Magic Johnson defeat Indiana State University, which was led by senior Larry Bird in what was the most-watched college basketball game ever. Johnson was subsequently drafted by the Lakers, Bird by the Celtics. Between 1980 and 1989 the NBA Finals would be represented by at least one of these franchises, with the two meeting on three occasions. Johnson would finish the 80s with five championships, Bird three.
Throughout that remarkable journey there was Converse. Now Nike dominates the basketball shoe industry, but in the 1970s to mid-1980’s, the pre-MJ era, Converse reigned supreme. Larry Bird started his rookie season with the Celtics in 1979 by wearing the Converse All-Star before moving to the Converse Pro that had been made famous by Julius ‘Dr J’ Erving in the early part of the next decade. The union was perfect, with the footwear company’s world head quarters based in Massachusetts. The Celtics led by Bird won the 1984 championship which went down to wire with Magic’s Lakers, with Game 7 of the 1984 final, won by the Celtics, became the most watched NBA game in television history. Magic had his revenge the following year, with the Lakers winning the 1985 Championship at Boston Garden inflicting a crushing defeat on the Celtics. For a whole decade Bird and Magic ultimately became the NBA bottom line. And in 1986 uniting them to power forward the new Converse Weapon was the next move.