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Magic Johnson says Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark are the Magic vs Bird of the WNBA

Johnson offers advice to Clark, “Call Larry Bird”

Five-time league champion and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday evening, where the basketball player turned business mogul said the budding rivalry between Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark is the WNBA’s equivalent of what he and Larry Bird did for the NBA some 40 years ago.

Kimmel opened Johnson’s introduction by calling him “the biggest figure in the history of LA sports,” as the longtime late night TV host listed off his playing accomplishments, followed by mentioning the teams he has an ownership stake in.

After a brief discussion on Johnson’s opinions of who he is rooting for in this year’s NBA Finals, featuring the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics, and a callback to a moment when Kimmel brought out matching fur coats for Johnson the last time he was on the show, Kimmel’s first question for Johnson centered around Reese and Clark.

“Let me ask you about these WNBA players,” Kimmel said. “Angel Reese [and] Caitlin Clark, who many are saying are the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson of the WNBA, do you like that when you hear that?”

“I like it and they are,” Johnson responded.

Kimmel then followed up with a question asking Johnson if he was treated as roughly as Reese and Clark seemingly are being treated as rookies in the WNBA.

“Of course,” Johnson replied. “Veterans are going to test you. If they feel that you’ve gotten more money or more publicity, you know that they’re upset about that.

“When I came [to] my first training camp, first day of practice, Ron Boone — I was looking up to get the rebound — He came in, hit me real hard behind my neck.”

“One of your own teammates?” Kimmel asked.

“My own teammate and he said, ‘Take that rookie,’” Johnson replied. “So, I said, okay. I got up, about three plays later, he was looking up to box me out. So, I ran as fast as I could and I hit him, bam! Right behind his neck, really hard, and he fell to the floor.

“And I told him, I said, ‘Don’t forget, I’m tough. I’m rough. If you want to play like that, we can play like that,’ and all the Lakers players came running up to me and hugged me, [they] said, ‘We like you.’”

Johnson said he couldn’t let Boone get away with that moment, but in the situation of Clark out on the floor in the Indiana Fevers’ games, her teammates have to come to her defense.

“You can’t allow her to fight every battle,” Johnson said.

Johnson went on to say that rookies like Clark, Reese and Cameron Brink with the Los Angeles Sparks will all be tested by the current pillars of the WNBA who have paid their dues and risen to the top of their respective sport.

Johnson went on to note how much things have changed in the NBA since his rookie year, telling Kimmel how he won a championship game in Philadelphia in 1980, went back to his hotel room after the game, and watched it air because the NBA Finals were on tape delay back then, before transitioning toward who was his role model that helped him grow into the basketball star he became.

“Dr. Buss, first, he was my mentor,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t be the businessman that I turned out to be — It was a direct result of Dr. Jerry Buss.”

In a similar vein where he Buss was a role model for him, Johnson said he believes Larry Bird could fill a similar role for Caitlin Clark.

“Let me give Caitlin some advice,” Johnson said. “Call Larry Bird, ask him for advice … Indiana, he’s already there, and he could give her great advice on how to handle this situation because he went through it himself.

“So, it would be a perfect situation. He already lived there, grew up in Indiana, on and on and on. I think it would be great.”