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Magic vs. Bird: The 1979 NCAA Championship Game (1979)

The 1979 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship game, between Michigan State University and Indiana State University, exactly as aired on NBA on March 26, 1979, except that the ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Bill Berry ...
Michigan State Assistant Coach
Indiana State Player
Don Brkovich ...
Michigan State Player
Mike Brkovich ...
Michigan State Player
Ron Charles ...
Michigan State Player
Tom Crowder ...
Indiana State Player
Eric Curry ...
Indiana State Player
Mel Daniels ...
Indiana State Assistant Coach
Terry Donnelly ...
Michigan State Player
Alex Gilbert ...
Indiana State Player
Gerald Gilkie ...
Michigan State Player
Rob Gonzalez ...
Michigan State Player
Dave Harshman ...
Michigan State Assistant Coach


The 1979 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship game, between Michigan State University and Indiana State University, exactly as aired on NBA on March 26, 1979, except that the commercials are deleted. Although the game, won 75-64 by MSU, was not quite as dramatic as many other NCAA championship games, it is one of the most historically significant games ever played. The game was the first on-the-court meeting between MSU's Earvin "Magic" Johnson and ISU's Larry Bird, two future Hall of Famers who combined to win NBA championships in eight of the next nine years. Johnson and Bird are credited with restoring unselfish and fundamentally sound play to the basketball and lifting it to new heights of popularity. Written by stevenmcatee@aol.com

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One of the most historically significant games ever!
12 March 2006 | by (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA) – See all my reviews

The NCAA men's basketball tournament has produced some of the most exciting, powerful and emotional moments in sports history, including some Hollywoodesque fantastic finishes. The 1979 championship game, though far from a blowout, wasn't a down to the wire thriller, but it is one of the most significant games ever played in any sport.

The match up between Michigan State Univeristy and Indiana State University was the first time that MSU's Earvin "Magic" Johnson and ISU's Larry Bird played each other. The two entered the NBA the next season and dominated it throughout the 1980s.

Happily, that game is now available on DVD through Greatest Games Ever. The DVD shows the broadcast exactly as it aired live on NBC with commentators Al McGuire, Billy Packer, Bryant Gumbel and Dick Enberg. The commercials are absent but the pre-game, halftime and post-game segments are included. The lack of commercials is a little disappointing because I think commercials are often fascinating in retrospect but that's my only criticism of the DVD.

Th game, played on March 26, 1979 at the Special Events Center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, was an unlikely pairing. Michigan State, from the mighty Big Ten and coached by seasoned veteran Jud Heathcote, was a natural participant. But Indiana State, from the relatively minor Missouri Valley Conference and led by a rookie head coach, Bill Hodges, was a surprise. Especially because the Sycamores had a long history of taking a distant backseat to the Hoosier state's Big Ten schools, Indiana University and Purdue University.

Adding drama was ISU entering the game with a 33-0 record, attempting to join an elite group of undefeated national champions. And on a trivial note, Hodges was the first head coach to reach the championship game with an undefeated career record. And Johnson and Bird were not the only great players on the floor. And least three others, MSU's Jay Vincent and Greg Kelser and ISU's Carl Nicks also went on to play in the NBA. And the pre-game interviews with Bird and Johnson are priceless.

Throughout the game, we get a preview of the way that Johnson and Bird would revolutionize the NBA in the next decade. In an era in which basketball was largely becoming a sloppy playground style sport, the two made teamwork and fundamentals popular again. Sadly, since they retried, the sport has regressed to an even worse state than it was at the time of this game. Though in two ways the sport has improved. Watching this game now reminds me how much more exciting the three point shot and the shot clock have made basketball.

The only thing that keeps this DVD from getting a 10/10 is that the game isn't particularly dramatic. Many NCAA championship games have had more memorable finishes. But none have ever given a better preview of the future of basketball. Bird and Johnson each went on to win three NBA Most Valuable Player awards and their teams won eight of the nine NBA championships from 1980-88. Johnson won five with the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird won three with the Boston Celtics.

As I finish typing this review, it's just about 45 minutes until the 2006 tournament selection show begins. This time of year always takes me back to the great tournament moments of the past and this game is one of the most special. 9/10.

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