• Paul Mokeski says Larry Bird and Magic Johnson played a big role in putting the NBA where it is today
  • Mokeski bares fans showed little interest in the NBA before Bird and Magic entered the league
  • The ex-NBA player believes the rivalry between Bird and Johnson created a lot of opportunities


Some players had that chance to play with the likes of Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson when both entered the NBA in 1979.

There were a lot of notable names that came into the league back then with the circumstances pretty far from how the NBA is perceived today.

One player who got into the league at that time is Paul Mokeski.

Better known as a bruising big man back then who would not back down from anyone, the 7-footer recounted how special it was entering the NBA alongside the aforementioned legends.

“Coming into the draft with those two (Larry Bird and Magic Johnson), their goal was to get MVPs and win championships. My goal was to make a team, that’s what I wanted to do. I was drafted by the Houston Rockets who at that point were a very, very good team,” Mokeski recalled when he appeared on the Sports For All PH podcast hosted by Filipino journalists Vincent Juico and Brian Yalung.

As most know, Bird and Johnson built a rivalry that turned out to be one of the stories ones in the NBA.

But in the eyes of the 65-year-old, the two helped save the NBA.

“I think actually that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson helped save the NBA. Because back then, the NBA, the finals in the NBA were tape-delayed. They weren’t even live. There was no sponsorship, fans were mad because back then, drugs and who was playing and it was a kinda little bit out of control and fans had a lot of less interest and the players were making too much money,” the Washington native explained.

Mokeski went on to explain how Bird and Johnson established themselves, racking individual accolades and leading their respective teams to multiple NBA titles.

It was only after the entry of Bird and Johnson that the league saw the influx of new talent who carried on from the two NBA legends’ lead.

“And then those two players came in in great areas. Boston, the legends, and Lakers, the legends. [It] became a rivalry that really infused the whole league with more excitement. And then more players would come in like Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They came in after those guys. So kind of in my way, I am proud to be part of that era,” he stated.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson with Danny Ainge, Robert Parish
Boston Celtics' basketball player Larry Bird restraining Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson from punching Celtics' Danny Ainge. Tempers flared during the third quarter of game one of the NBA Championship at the Fleet Center in Boston on May 27, 1995. Getty Images