Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Palmer and the Sycamores

According to The Internet (sure, that's a viable source) a reference is made in 24 to the 1979 NCAA Final Four, and how David Palmer scored the game-winning basket against DePaul. Sure enough, DePaul University was in the Final Four that year and they lost to the Indiana State Sycamores, 76-74. That means that not only did Palmer go to Indiana State, but he was also a teammate of Larry Bird.

Clearly, the credit can't go to Palmer, because he was a fictional character. Dennis Haysbert, though offered athletic scholarships, was pursuing a career in acting at the time. Just months before his character's heroics on the court, Haysbert made a guest appearance on the show The White Shadow, playing "Basketball Player." That's funny, because The White Shadow was about a retired NBA player who coaches an inner-city high school basketball team. You'd imagine there would be many basketball players cast in the show.

So, it wasn't Palmer and it wasn't Haysbert. Who did score the winning basket?

According to this highlight reel, Bob Heaton.

Though Bird led the team, Heaton, now a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives, was good for those pressure moments. Earlier that season, Heaton successfully launched a 50-foot shot during the final seconds of a game against New Mexico State that forced an overtime and helped preserve the Sycamores' undefeated record. He also scored a last-second basket against Arkansas in the regional finals, which gave Indiana State its Final Four spot.

After beating DePaul in the Final Four, the Sycamores went on to face Michigan State in the NCAA Finals.

There are a few important things about the Indiana State-Michigan State game. First and foremost, it remains the highest-rated college basketball game in history. Not only was Larry Bird getting a lot of attention, but so was Michigan State's stand-out, Magic Johnson.
Magic, working his... well, magic.
We're going to take this opportunity to point out Bob Heaton (#30).
This was the first time Bird and Magic played against each other. Bird's rivalry with Magic throughout the '80s would help revive the NBA, which had been suffering from low attendance and television interest.

I guess another important thing to know about the game is that Michigan State ended up winning, 75-64. Maybe Indiana State could have used Palmer's help after all.

If you haven't already, drop by on this week's fight between Palmer and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and be sure to vote.

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