Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are all the rage these days. We’ve had a 2010 HBO documentary about their rivalry, a 2012 Broadway show about their rivalry and now in 2017 a massive, two-part “30 for 30” documentary about their rivalry.

ESPN has commissioned a film about the 1980s Celtics and Lakers, to air some time around the NBA Finals this spring. The film will be executive produced by Jonathan Hock, who has produced four other “30 for 30s” and will also produce the new John Calipari documentary set to air this spring.


“There’s really a lot to work with here,” said John Dahl, the vice president and executive producer for ESPN Films and Original Content. “This isn’t just a basketball story but a cultural one. I think the film will create a lot of buzz because the Celtics and Lakers are eternally marquee franchises.”

In an interview with last week, Hock said the main focus of the doc will be the rivalry of the 1980s but the film will also examine the history of the NBA through the prism of the rivalry. “The idea is that everybody chose a side between the Lakers and Celtics, that’s sort of the organizing principle for us in the pre-production and early stages of production,” Hock said.

ESPN also announced that it had reached a two-year “first look” deal with Hock, which means instead of overseeing the production process, they let Hock make his films and then get first dibs on distributing them. The deal gives Hock more independence and allows ESPN to box in  competitors like Netflix, Showtime and HBO (which could ramp up documentary production now that Bill Simmons, who worked with Hock on previous “30 for 30s,” is there).

“Jon is a tremendously talented director and producer whose work is part of the fabric of what 30 for 30 has become,” said Connor Schell, SVP and executive producer, ESPN Films and Original Content in a statement. “The ESPN Films brand in many ways started with the acquisition of Jon’s excellent feature documentary ‘Through the Fire.’ He and his team at Hock Films tell thoughtful, important and honest stories, and we are proud to continue having him bring these stories to life for our viewers.”

The Celtics-Lakers/Bird-Magic rivalry was such a defining story of the 1980s that it’s kind of remarkable ESPN didn’t produced this “30 for 30” years ago. We’ll see if this documentary can bring a fresh look to a much-covered subject.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

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