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YouTube Gold: One Of Larry Bird’s Breakthrough Games At Indiana State

As Hoosier fans everywhere wonder what might have been had Bird stayed in Bloomington

Indiana State v West Texas
Young Larry Bird at Indiana State

When he got to the NBA, Larry Bird seemed almost omniscient. He was able to be where the ball was going, which is a very rare talent, and he always seemed to know where the game was going and he could get the ball where it needed to be too.

But he was also a brilliant offensive player and if you let him get going, you were in big trouble.

That was true in college but it took people a while to realize how good he really was. ESPN was barely off the ground in 1979 when Bird was a senior, so what most of the country saw were grainy 30 second clips on the local news as his legend grew.

And games like Indiana State vs. Wichita State made it obvious that something amazing was brewing in Terre Haute.

Terre Haute means high ground and that’s what Bird tended to take. Certainly he did against Wichita State here, scoring 49 points and displaying a genius level basketball IQ.

You see his range and his deep understanding of the game and also one of his textbook fakes: he pretends to pass the ball over the head of a defender who turns to see where the ball went and - too late - realizes that Bird, deep in the corner, is now wide open.

Watching little Indiana State challenge the major programs of the day was just fascinating. Bird led ISU all the way to the national championship game against Michigan State and Magic Johnson before the undefeated Sycamores finally were felled.

Small trivia: after his college career was over, Bird had a very serious injury to the index finger on his right hand, and he was never able to straighten it again. An all-time great shooter, one wonders what he might have done if he had not permanently injured his finger.