Monday, June 27, 2011

The jump that inspired a million jumps

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.


Robin Fowler said...

Lorenzo's passing just hurts my heart. That year...that game...was unlike no other. I was sitting on my couch, the coffee table in front of me, and as "THE SHOT" went in, my husband and I simultaneously jumped up in the air, over the coffee table, landed on our feet, went down on our knees and begin hitting the floor with our hands while screaming "YES!!!!".

I'm a huge, die hard college basketball fan, and love watching the NCAA tournament. Lorenzo Charles is one of the prime reasons I love Tourney Time. A little known player from a college that in all actuality by statistics should NOT have been in that Championship game, only to have one of the most miraculous shots to go down in college basketball history...well, that is why I love this game. After one miracle's kind of like the bar in Boston called Cheers.. Everyone knew his name.

My condolences go out to his family and friends, NC State University, and his former teammates. Jimmy V is really smilin now...and he has found someone to hug.

Anonymous said...

Lorenzo's Dunk was once rated the 7th most memorable sports moment in the U.S. Roethliberger's last second td pass in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago pushed it back to 8th. It's the #1 moment in college basketball history.
It's a sad day for Wolfpack fans. R.I.P. Lorenzo. Thanks for my all time favorite sports moment.

David said...

I have such fond memories of that '83 team. I was then (and still am) a State fan. Like you, Scott, I was a senior in high school then. I was sitting on the den floor, so I could be closer to the TV, watching the game. I was so stunned initially (did Houston call TO, was it goaltending), then jumped so high I almost hit my head on the wooden beam on the ceiling.

Lo really started to emerge during that tourney run and became a very solid player the next 2 years. My condolences to his family and all Wolfpack fans.

Anonymous said...

Um... I think Christian Laettner's shot was more famous, they show it every March!

Go Devils!

None said...

Laettner's shot didn't win them the Championship. It only helped them get there. Anybody but Duke!!!

Anonymous said...

We in the wolfpack family are sadden to hear the loss of one of our own in Lorenzo Charles. Not only did he help win a championship with that special play,but a well rounded basketball player and a fine representative of the university. He was taken too,too, soon, our thoughts and prayers go to his family and immediate friends and the entire wolfpack famiy.

Anonymous said...

It was a dunk off of a very bad desperation shot, not a precise pass.

wolfpack fans will grasp ahold to anything for validation

Anonymous said...

I had just returned to Gulfport, MS from a deployment to Sasebo, Japan as a Navy Seabee. I was driving home to NC and stopped to get a hotel room in Atlanta,just to watch the game. I was on my knees in the floor with my teeth and fists clinched. When Whittenberg fired his shot toward the basket, it seemed that time stood still. Suddenly, Lorenzo snags the ball out of midair and dunks it. I leaped into the air along with those other millions who were as surprised as me. It didn't seem real. I wasn't sure I had just seen that. My mind was asking, why was the basket so wide open and unprotected? It seemed as if everyone had just quit playing except for Whittenberg and Charles. I'm certain that many coaches used that highlight to explain why you play all the way to the buzzer, and beyond if necessary.

keydet1983 said...

I was a First Classman (Senior) at VMI returning from Easter furlough from Wilmington. Dropped my girlfriend off quickly in Lynchburg so I could make it back to Lexington in time to sneak uptown with some classmates from NC to watch the game. We almost got thrown out of Spanky's three times for making so much noise during the game. When Charles hit that shot we went nuts and didn't stop screaming until we got back to Barracks.

That run to the championship is one of the most amazing sporting achievements of all time.