Magic Johnson Sees Himself and Larry Bird in Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese

The NBA legend tweeted out the flattering comparison after the latest battle between the two young WNBA stars.
Apr 6, 2009; Detroit, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans and NBA former player Magic Johnson (right) hugs NBA former player Larry Bird (left) during a press conference
Apr 6, 2009; Detroit, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans and NBA former player Magic Johnson (right) hugs NBA former player Larry Bird (left) during a press conference / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It is quickly becoming clear that the on-court rivalry between Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese is not something that will get lost in their transition to the WNBA. The latest example came on Sunday evening, when Reese's Chicago Sky beat Clark's Indiana Fever in a tight contest that came down to the wire. Both young superstars shone; Reese recorded 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Clark posted 17 points and 13 assists.

To one NBA legend, their battle was reminiscent of another young set of players who dueled in college and the pros.

On Monday night, Magic Johnson observed from his X (formerly Twitter) account that Reese and Clark's rivalry is similar to the one between him and Larry Bird that breathed new life into the NBA in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"Larry and I heightened the NBA’s overall popularity," Johnson wrote. "The Lakers and Celtics sold out arenas throughout the league and increased television viewership exponentially. The higher viewership numbers led to the NBA signing significantly larger TV contracts which then led to higher salaries for the players. Caitlin and Angel are now doing the same thing, selling out arenas and increasing the viewership. They have taken women’s basketball by storm and with expiring TV deals on the horizon, the WNBA is now in a position to negotiate higher TV contracts and increase salaries for all of the talented players."

It's hard to say it's off-base, either. While only the coming years will tell us if Clark and Reese can launch the WNBA into a new stratosphere the same way Magic and Bird did, the early effects are similar.

There is a surge of interest in both tangible and intangible ways. The discourse has never been more constant and fans are spending money to see games and buy merchandise. Viewership records are being broken regularly. And it's all happening at a far faster pace than anyone could have imagined largely because of the fireworks Clark and Reese have brought to the game.

As Johnson points out, there will be a trickle-down effect if the upward trajectory continues. More interest means more money for everybody, not just Clark and Reese.

It's a lofty comparison for Johnson to make. But the similarities are clear as day, and everybody will be better off if Reese and Clark can even come close to matching the legacy of Magic and Bird.


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Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a senior writer for the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in May 2024, McKeone worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, he is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books and video games. McKeone has been a member of the National Sports Media Association since 2020.