Magic and Larry

May 1, 2020

During the 1979 NCAA Tournament Championship,

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson competed against each other for the first time. The Indiana State Sycamores entered the game protecting an undefeated season, while the Michigan State Spartans had six losses, but had managed to thump the rest of the competition to reach the Final. The meeting between the two powerhouses is still the most watched NCAA Tournament game of all time, pulling an estimated 35-40 million viewers.
The Spartan’s game plan in the Championship was to swarm Bird and prevent him getting the ball at all. When that didn’t work, and Bird did manage to get the ball, he was uncertain of whether to pass or to shoot with double teams surrounding him. The Michigan State strategy worked, and they led at half 37-28. The closest the Sycamores would get in the second half was 52-46. Johnson led all scorers in the game with 24 points. Bird would have 19 points, but missed two out of three of his 21 shot attempts. The Spartans would beat the undefeated Sycamores for the Championship 75-64, but this wouldn’t be the end of Magic and Larry’s rivalry.
Magic was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry was drafted by the Boston Celtics. Both would go on to play 13 seasons in the NBA and make 12 All-Star Games. The rest, they say, is history.

Tagged: College, college basketball

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