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THEY CAGED THE BIRD
Larry Keith
April 02, 1979
While Earvin Johnson directed a balanced offense, and the defense deterred Larry Bird, Michigan State won the NCAAs
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April 02, 1979

They Caged The Bird

While Earvin Johnson directed a balanced offense, and the defense deterred Larry Bird, Michigan State won the NCAAs

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"Today we was lucky," was Bird's analysis of the victory. "We was very lucky."

Luckiest of all were the people who had come to Salt Lake hoping to see Bird and Johnson in the finals. Confrontations between stars of this magnitude have been surprisingly rare in the final four. More often they have come in the semifinals, where Thompson met Walton, Alcindor met Hayes, Russell met Bradley. But this one would be in the title game, and as Brigham Young said when he first came upon what is now the site of Salt Lake City, "This is the place."

The fans weren't the only people excited by the showdown. "I'd just like to go out there and watch it myself," said Terry Donnelly. "You can't help but get caught up in a confrontation like that," said Heathcote. "From what I've seen of Bird, he's not just one bird. He's a whole flock."

Bird preferred to emphasize the differences between Johnson and himself. "He is more of a passer, and I'm more of a scorer," he said. "And to me it's a very serious game. I can't be laughing like he does out there. I just hope when it's over he ain't laughing at me."

No one laughed at him in the end. But while Johnson and Kelser embraced for a final time under the basket, Bird sat on the Indiana State bench, sobbing into a towel.

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