Why Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese remind Magic Johnson of his rivalry with Larry Bird

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson raised basketball's profile on the college and pro levels with classic matchups as they went from heated rivals to friends.

Could Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese do the same for women's basketball?

Johnson thinks so.

"When I think about Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese's impact on the game, they remind me a lot of Larry Bird and me," the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member posted on social media.

Johnson and Bird's first meeting came in the 1979 NCAA Tournament championship game, in which Johnson's Michigan State Spartans beat Bird's previously undefeated Indiana State Sycamores in a game watched by 18 million households. That game sparked the "March Madness" that we know today.

Bird (Boston Celtics) and Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) battled for NBA awards and championships throughout the 1980s, elevating the pro game's status.

Opinion: Fever vs. Sky rivalry is gift that will keep on giving for WNBA

Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese rivalry

Clark and Reese have led a similar surge in women's basketball. The Iowa (Clark) vs. LSU (Reese) 2023 national championship game drew 12 million viewers, and their 2024 Elite Eight matchup drew 12.3 million.

Clark's Iowa squad won that 2024 matchup, and their Final Four games had 18 million+ viewers.

In their rookie WNBA seasons, Clark vs. Reese have been a huge draw. They have met three times, drawing millions of viewers and producing some drama (here and here) along the way. Clark's Indiana Fever are 2-1 in those matchups, and Reese's Chicago Sky won on June 23 as both players excelled. Clark had 17 points and a team-record 13 assists, while Reese had 25 points and 16 rebounds.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Caitlin Clark vs Angel Reese reminds Magic Johnson of him, Larry Bird