Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who had one of the greatest basketball rilvaries of the 1980s, are about to see their game played on a different set of boards on Broadway. Magic/Bird debuts in April.
Producers Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser, who brought Lombardi to the stage, are behind the new sports-themed show.
Bringing Bird’s and Magic’s story to Broadway has been on their agenda for a long time, Kirmser told CBS News. Their rivalry began in college–Bird played at Indiana State and Johnson played at Michigan State.
Bird’s pro career spanned 13 years, from 1979 to 1992. He played exclusively for the Boston Celtics. Johnson played at the same time exclusively for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 6’9″ power forward led his small college team to the NCAA championship game in 1979, his senior season, only to lose to a Michigan State team led by Johnson. They met for the NBA championship three times; the Lakers won twice. They finally became teammates when they played together in the Olympics.
“They played at such a high competitive level and there was equally a high level of respect between the two of them,” Kirmser said. “That is not something that we see all the time now.”
The producing team contacted Johnson, who first brought his wife, Cookie, to see “Lombardi” before committing. Bird wanted to first know that Johnson was on board.
“I guess it’s the real Showtime,” Johnson, 52, told CBS. “When you think about Broadway and you think about Larry and I being on Broadway, it’s definitely at its highest level and I don’t think either one of us thought that we would be on Broadway. If we was, we’d be there seeing a play and not a play about our lives.”
Tug Coker, who has appeared on TV in shows such as “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Office,” is playing Bird. Kevin Daniels plays Johnson, and they “really capture the essence of these two individuals,” Kirmser said.
The show will also feature NBA footage of the two players, for their rookie season until their Olympic triumph. The show opens Apr. 11 at the Longacre Theater.