You got to hand it to Broadway, they can make a show about anything, even a relationship between two of basketballs biggest stars. Such is the case of the newest sports-themed play from Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, 'Magic/Bird', which puts into play format the tumultuous relationship between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and how they went from bitter rivals to greatest friends.
The play, which is due to open on April 11th at the Longacre Theatre, follows the two men from their college days to the NBA, even touching upon Magic's discovery that he had contracted the HIV virus shortly after playing on the 1992 'dream team.' It shows how their stormy relationship slowly turned from mutual loathing to admiration, respect and ultimately a deep friendship that both treasure to this day.
As incredulous as it sounds to an every day person that a play has been made of this subject, it was even more so to Larry Bird. Bird was highly skeptical when approached about it and was surprised when it was proved to be a real project.
“I thought it was a joke” Bird said by telephone in an interview about the subject. “My first reaction was, that's not really me. I'd been to plays before, but this was different. This was about me.”
Johnson proved to be the driving force in getting his friend Bird to agree to this. At first skeptical himself, Magic was swayed to the idea when he went and saw Kirmser and Ponturo's first sports play 'Lombardi'.
“I wondered how the crowd would respond, and it did,” Magic said. “I was blown away. That's when I knew we had to work on Larry. I said: 'we're going to be involved. So let's read the script, add our notes and make sure it comes out in our voices”
Though some aspects of the play are purely the creation of the playwrights, like the conversation had by both men on the pivotal day that their animosity turned to friendship at a lunch made by Bird's mother, the majority of it is on record as being 100% true and an accurate representation of the real events.
That lunch is the longest scene in the play, and though neither of the men can recall exacty what was said in it's entirety, it is still fondly remembered and played a major part in the direction of both players lives.
“We ate quickly and sat around talking,” Bird said. “Not about how you hit that shot, but how you grew up, where you work out, stuff about fathers.
Mr Johnson added: “His mother almost made us talk to each other, A great mother senses things, She reminded me of my mother. I felt like a little boy in there.”
“Lombardi”, Kirmser and Ponturo's first sports play, ran for 244 performances in 2010 and is based on the life of Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.