■ ■ ■ ■ 1/2 HBO Sports is well
known for top-notch documentaries,
but its latest project, Magic & Bird: A
Courtship of Rivals, is a true slam dunk.

The documentary effectively chronicles
one of basketball’s most competitive
and unique rivalries through
traditional video clips interspersed
with interviews from family members,
former teammates and journalists.

What makes this a standout are the
personal reflections from the two hall
of famers of their years as competitors,
from their storied college rivalry
through their championship battles in
the National Basketball Association and,
ultimately, their unmistakable friendship
in later years.

Note the openness of the notoriously
reticent Bird in discussing his
relationship with Magic — at times
adversarial, at times compassionate
— especially during Johnson’s 1991
announcement that he had contracted
the HIV virus.

Johnson’s discussion of that difficult
time — and his emotional reaction to
a phone conversation with Bird about
his impending public announcement
and retirement — is a very poignant
and unforgettable point in the documentary.

Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel
rightfully credits Magic and Bird as
saving and reviving the NBA during
the 1980s. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of
Rivals nicely documents the great on
and off-the-court contributions that
both men have made to the sport. It’s
a must see for hard-core basketball
fans and a great watch for casual viewers
as well.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.