1979 NCAA National Championship Game: Magic vs. Bird – The First One
Before they became rivals-turned-friends like in the photo, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird provided the highest rated NCAA Championship Game in their first head-to-head battle. We’ll be re-airing the game tonight (Thurs., March 19) at 5 p.m. on AM 750 The Game. Here’s what the two teams did to meet in the 1979 Title game.
Indiana State entered the 1978 season unranked in the Associated Press Preseason poll, but they reached the 1979 National Championship game with a ridiculous 33-0 record, and they were No. 1 in the country. Bird led the Sycamores in all three major statistical categories: 28.6 points, 14.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
The No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, Indiana State blasted through the first two rounds, including wins against Virginia Tech (86-69) and Oklahoma (93-72). The senior, Bird, then scored 31 and 35 to help the Sycamores eke past Arkansas (73-71) and DePaul (76-74) to reach the title game.
As for the Spartans, they reached the National Championship game ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll with a 25-6 record. As a sophomore at Michigan State, Johnson was second in scoring (17.1 points) and rebounds (7.3), behind only Greg Kelser (18.8 and 8.7), but Magic led the team with 8.4 assists per game.
MSU cruised their way to the title game. As the mideast No. 2 seed, the Spartans smashed Lamar in their first game, 95-64. Then, they beat LSU by 16, 87-71. In Elite Eight, Michigan State beat Notre Dame (80-68), and then they blasted Penn (101-67) to meet Bird and the Sycamores in the NCAA National Championship Game.
Don’t miss the game tonight at 5 p.m. on AM 750 The Game.