March 30, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- Legendary NCAA and NBA basketball stars Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird will present the game ball at the 2009 NCAA national championship game, scheduled for April 6 at Ford Field in Detroit. Johnson and Bird, both members of the Naismith Hall of Fame, are famous in part for leading their teams to legendary games against one another, beginning with the 1979 national title game between Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans and the Bird-led Sycamores of Indiana State.

The 30th anniversary of that game, the highest-rated game in the storied history of the NCAA championship, will be a focal point of celebrations throughout Final Four weekend, culminating with Bird and Johnson presenting the game ball to team captains and officials.

“The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is one of the world’s most popular sporting events, and a great deal of that can be contributed to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, two of the greatest players the sport has ever seen,” said Mike Slive, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. “The popularity of the tournament, and specifically the Final Four, soared when a young man with an infectious smile and a skill set never seen before by someone with his size led his team to a national championship over a sharp-shooting Indiana kid, from a small town and at a small university, with an unparalleled fire and competitive nature. It was a classic matchup that somehow managed to live up to the hype. The two men went on to stellar professional careers and had great success on the international level as well, and are tremendous ambassadors for the game, so it will be a great honor to have these men with us at the Final Four. The anniversary of their legendary Final Four match-up is one of the key reasons the basketball committee chose to come to Detroit for this year’s championship.”

A press conference featuring Johnson and Bird will take place at Ford Field at 7:45 p.m. Monday, April 6. The press conference will last 30 minutes, concluding approximately one hour prior to the start of the national championship game. Johnson and former Michigan State head coach Jud Heathcote will represent the Spartans when the team is honored by the United States Basketball Writers Association at its annual awards breakfast, which takes place at 8 a.m. Friday, April 3 at the Detroit Athletic Club. Former Spartans Greg Kelser, Jay Vincent and current MSU coach Tom Izzo also are scheduled to attend.

Saturday’s first semifinal game, featuring West Regional champion Connecticut against Midwest Regional champ Michigan State, tips off at 6:07 p.m. EST. South Region champion North Carolina faces East Region champion Villanova 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal.