“Her Teammates Have To Come To Her Defense”: Magic Johnson Says Indiana Fever Not Protecting Caitlin Clark, Says She Should Call Larry Bird For Advice

Magic Johnson appeared on Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday evening after the Boston Celtics obliterated the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals.

Among the hot topics discusses between the two legends of their trades, Johnson, the 64-year-old five-time NBA champion and three-time league MVP and Finals MVP, whose rivalry with Larry Birds’ Celtics in the 1980s is credited with catapulting the NBA to a new stratosphere as a permanent hub in American sports entertainment, had a lot to say about WNBA star Caitlin Clark and her rise to face of the league. 

Magic Johnson Understands Caitlin Clark’s Struggle

He also expressed an understanding for what she is going through as far as veteran players in the league being physical with her and testing her gangster every now and then. 

Magic says he experienced even harsher treatment from his own teammates when he first arrived in L.A. 

“So I went to go up and get the rebound and he hit me real hard, behind my neck. My own teammate and he said, ‘Take that, rook.”

“I said, ‘OK.’ I got up, and about three plays later he was looking up trying to box me out. I ran as fast as I could and I just hit him, bam, hard as I could right behind his neck, really hard. And he fell to the floor, and I told him, ‘Don’t forget. I’m tough. I’m rough. If you want to play like that, we can play like that,” he added.

Magic said his refusal to back down to a notorious enforcer and his physical retaliation, garnered him the respect of his teammates. 

“And all the Lakers players came running up to me and said, ‘We like you.’ I couldn’t let him get away with that.” 

Magic Chastises Caitlin Clark’s Teammates For Not Retaliating

“Now, Caitlin, her teammates have got to come to her defense,” Magic said. “You can’t allow her to have to fight every battle. But we have to understand both Caitlin and Angel Reese and Cameron Brinks who play for my Sparks… They made the WNBA better and they’re going to be tested by these incredible women who have been in the league for a long time.” 

“Now, Caitlin is the most popular WNBA player, but she’s not the best at this time. Just like Larry and I weren’t the best when we entered the league,” Magic continued. “We became the best later on by our play. Caitlin still has to play great to become the best WNBA player.” 

Magic Understands Why Clark’s $28M Historic Nike Deal Rubs Players Wrong

Kimmel said, “After your rookie year you got a 25-year, $25 million contract, which seems like a crazy amount of money at the time. Now that’s basically what you spend on lunch, right?” 

It was a lot of money at the time, and Magic says the other Lakers players weren’t happy about it. 

“They were not happy because that was more money than anybody had ever received at that time.,” Magic recalled.

Kimmel says he’s surprised they reacted that way because Magic setting a higher pay scale for the league would potentially benefit all players. 

But Magic said the other NBA players didn’t see it that way. “Even though it worked out like that,” Magic said.

“See players don’t see the long-term, it’s all about the short-term. So, what Larry and I did for the NBA to this day, guys are capitalizing on. Now they are making 50 million a year.”

Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese: New Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird WNBA Style

The Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson rivalry transcended the court and was actually made in heaven. Bird was a white player in a white town (Boston) and was excelling in a Black man’s sport as the rival of the No. 1 Black player in the world, Magic Johnson, who was flashier and more famous. Bird became a reflection of the Northeast town he played for. He was just as polarizing as Magic and had the support of the white audience.

Magic was from urban Michigan and Bird was from rural French Lick, Indiana.

Race played a part in the rivalry. But it was the incredible skills of both players and how they would go back and forth, gaining the upper hand, year-to-year and NBA Finals-to-NBA Finals that captivated people.

The way they played against each other in the national championship game in college in 1979 and then were drafted by storied franchises setting the stage for their built-in NBA rivalries that flourished.

Reese and Clark have a similar storyline dating back to college, and a chance to elevate the league in a similar manner. Like Magic said, they have to keep progressing on the court to have the best impact.

Magic Johnson Says Clark Should Call Larry Bird

Magic also offered Cailtin some personal advice: 

“Call Larry Bird. Ask him for advice” 

“He’s from Indiana, he’s already there and I think he can give her great advice on this situation, because he went through it himself. He already lived there, grew up in Indiana. I think he would be great.” 

Magic Johnson clearly understands the assignment as an owner of the L.A. Sparks. He praised Clark, promoted the WNBA, told the rookie’s teammates to hold her down better even if it means being physical, celebrated the rookies who are moving the needle and gave props to Larry Bird, a player who is forever tied to Magic and the legacy he’s achieved.

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