Well. Big surprise in that championship game, eh?
I mean, come on. When North Carolina and Michigan State meet up, knowing that UNC previously walloped State by 35, odds are there’s not going to be too drastic a turnaround.
Needless to say, these weren’t the 1979 Spartans.
Of course, there’s been a lot of talk about that team since 1.) It’s the 30-year anniversary and 2.) It was Bird v. Johnson.
While Johnson’s team came out on top — and Johnson outscored Bird 24-19 – I’ve concluded that Larry Bird was the greater collegiate player. Why? Well, it’s simple:
Indiana State sucks.
Seriously. This is a school that typically doesn’t even belong in the tournament (They’ve only been to two since that year.) Indiana State University making the big Dance is the equivalent of — oh, I don’t know — let’s say Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo making the Big Dance.
Never heard of Cal Poly? Well, that’s probably how it is for Indiana State. In fact, younger people probably think Bird went to Indiana University (He actually got a scholarship to IU but couldn’t stand the school’s size — the wimp — and left after 24 days.)
So picture a guy leading a team like Cal Poly not only to the tournament but all the way to the championship. That’s what Bird did. One game shy of being undefeated. (The last team to do that, by the way: Indiana University.)
Now, of course, Magic and his team did well also. But Michigan State without Magic was far better than Indiana State without Bird. So I gotta give far more credit to Larry Legend.
In the NBA, both players, of course, went on to greatness, becoming part of a legendary Lakers-Celtics rivalry. In the NBA, Bird would again lead his team of overachievers while Magic would be play for a much more talented cast. In the end, of course, it’s the number of titles won that counts. The final tally:
College championships: 0
NBA finals appearances: 5
NBA finals victories: 3
College championships: 1
NBA finals appearances: 9
NBA finals victories: 5