1979 : Magic Johnson Leads Michigan State Spartans to First National Basketball Title

March 26, 2018 all-day

Magic Johnson dunks the basketball against Bob Heaton of the Indiana State University Sycamores while Larry Bird (standing in front of No. 23) watches.

Michigan State University won the NCAA championship against Indiana State University in a March 26, 1979 game featuring MSU’s Earvin (Magic) Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird, who would carry their storied rivalry into the National Basketball Association, revitalizing the professional game.

The final score in the game that secured MSU’s first national championship at the Special Events Center in Salt Lake City was 75-64.

The Spartans, led by co-captains Johnson and Greg Kelser, reached the final by beating Lamar on March 11, Louisiana State on March 16, Notre Dame on March 18 and Pennsylvania on March 24.

Under Coach Jud Heathcote, the 1978-79 team compiled a 26-6 overall record.

Johnson, a Lansing native, went on to play for the Los Angeles Lakers for 13 years, retiring in 1991. He was on five championship teams, plus the original Dream Team, which won the gold medal in basketball in the 1992 Olympics. The 6-foot-9 point guard was the most valuable player three times and the Finals MVP three times.

His college archrival, Bird, spent the same number of years on the Boston Celtics, where he was a two-time Finals MVP and the first non-center to win three consecutive MVP Awards.

Both were 12-time All-Stars.

The Spartans reclaimed the NCAA title with an 89-76 win over Florida on April 3, 2000.

Source : Detroit Free Press, March 25, 2012.

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