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Kelser on Magic Johnson Homecoming: We Thought Larry Bird Was Black

ESPN televised one of its Homecoming specials on Tuesday, a return of Magic Johnson to his home state of Michigan. They filmed the program at Jenison Field House where Michigan State played basketball when Magic was in school. Several former teammates and prominent figures from Magic’s career were on hand to tell personal stories, but nothing topped what Greg Kelser had to say.

Kelser played six years in the NBA and is regarded as the second-best player from Magic’s Michigan State teams. When host Rick Reilly introduced Kelser and asked him to talk about the 1978 championship game against Indiana State, he shared the best anecdote of the night.

“We thought Larry Bird was a black guy in Indiana, killing everybody. He’s scoring 35 a game? He’s gotta be a brother!” Kelser joked. “We soon learned he was one bad white guy,” Kelser continued. “We had a lot of respect for Larry Bird.”

The story obviously brought the house down as people were roaring with laughter. What’s really incredible about the story is it makes you realize how much things have changed over the past 30 years. In 1978 not many college basketball games were televised nationally so most people had never seen Larry Bird play. Now we have games from different regions televised nationally on a daily basis in HD and 3D ensuring the same mistake will not be made again (unless we’re talking about Trot Nixon).