Magic and Larry on LeBron The Champion

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
1:08
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
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After what many billed as the best individual matchup on the NBA Finals stage since Magic versus Bird, there are two guys you definitely want to hear from now that LeBron James' Miami Heat have finished off Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.

Magic.

And Bird.

As a quick follow-up to the feature published earlier Thursday, which surveyed five Hall of Fame swingmen for their views on the LeBron-KD battle, Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird was asked to project what James' first title will do not only for his legacy, but his career from here.

"Everyone always looks at champions a little differently after they’ve won one," Bird told ESPN.com. "He’s a special player. And I’m sure that as time goes, on he’ll continue getting better and better and everyone will follow his career. He’ll have more people on his side than against him.”

ESPN's Magic Johnson, meanwhile, fielded the same question Thursday during a conference call with the national media hours before Game 5.

"Yeah, I think everything changes," Johnson said. "We saw that with Michael [Jordan]. We saw the emotion came out when Michael got his first one. He cried and he finally did it.

"[James] can now feel that, you know what, I am the best player in the world because I've won a ring. The ring says so, not the media, not that the marketing says so, but my game actually says so. We're judged by championships, and so I think LeBron ... will be bigger around the world with a championship. I think all the naysayers go away and I think it's only going to make him better, too.

"Michael got better after his first championship, and so I think the same thing happens for LeBron. ... It's going to be LeBron-mania like we've never seen before."

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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