Like everyone who saw it that night, I remember Lorenzo Charles' dunk of Dereck Whittenburg's 30-foot prayer of a shot that allowed N.C. State to upset Houston, 54-52, in the 1983 national championship.
Charles' jump to grab that airball and slam it home inspired a million more jumps -- from fans watching in person and from the millions more watching at home, of which I was one.
Charles died Monday afternoon in a bus accident in Raleigh. He was 47.
Everyone saw Jim Valvano's mad "Who can I hug next?" dash across the court in New Mexico -- that was Valvano's reaction to an unforgettable play. But there were many other reactions to it -- if you saw it live on TV, I bet you remember yours.
I was a high school senior watching that game in our family den. I was cheering desperately for N.C. State -- I lived in Spartanburg, S.C., at the time and had had a long-developed love of underdogs.
When Charles threw down his dunk, a surge of adrenalin poured through me and I jumped off the couch and into the air. Our popcorn-style ceiling was relatively low, and I accidentally banged both my hands onto it as I raised them and screamed "Yes!"
A small shower of white pellets fell into my hair from where I had disturbed the ceiling, but I didn't care. Houston had gotten what it deserved (do you remember that Hakeem Olajuwon deserted the basket on the play, allowing Charles free rein?) and so had the Wolfpack.
It was one of those moments that you knew immediately would be talked about for decades. I've read where Charles said in previous interviews he thought that dunk would be remembered for awhile, that he'd have his 15 minutes of fame, and that it'd be forgotten. But that was too humble. The moment was too perfect, and then framed beautifully by Valvano's madcap sprint. It was one of those moments that made March Madness what it is today, and we can thank the late Lorenzo Charles for that as we send out thoughts and prayers to his family.
6 months ago