IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — A former basketball player on Michigan State University’s 1979 championship team got a big surprise from his past.
“It takes me back to a time a place where (I) played with Magic Johnson, and played against Larry Bird… I don’t care how much money, you cannot duplicate that type of experience,” Gerald Gilkie told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.
Gilkie has since traded the hardwood for helping people. He works at the Ionia prison as a counselor, but he hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be a champion basketball player.
“When we got back home we did not know what we had done,” said Gilkie. “People were waiting on us at the airport (as) soon as we landed in Lansing. The coach said, ‘Do you guys see what’s going on out there? Thousands and thousands (of) people waiting to receive us.’”
The MSU team had instant fame. They received keys to the city, free meals and invitations everywhere. The hardwood they won on was transported from Salt Lake City to East Lansing, where each player signed it.
“I did not know that coming to a staff meeting where we usually talk about you know what’s going on in the facility, that I would be presented with a piece of memorabilia that I actually signed,” said Gilkie.
The floor was then removed and stored away.
Recently, one of his co-workers found the piece of hardwood he signed for sale online. It took her three months to track it across at least three states.
Earlier this month, she presented it to a shocked Gilke.
“Playing on the hardwood for big stakes the national championship, money cannot buy that type of experience. Like I say, you had to have been there and this kind of memorabilia brings you back, brings you back 100 percent,” he said.
His co-worker didn’t disclose how much it cost; Gilkie was given it as a gift for working at the prison.
“I said man, for a co-worker to do something like that,” said Gilkie.
Gilkie is still figuring out where to put the piece.