Lorenzo Charles was a symbol of "March Madness", his game-winning
dunk in the 1983 National Championship exemplified what this great
basketball tournament is all about and everything comes with it. Who
can forget what ensued after this hulk of a man, ripped the nets with
the points that gave North Carolina State it's second national championship
in school history.
Jimmy Valvano running around aimlessly, looking for someone to hug. The
players on Houston, an incredibly talented team, known as "Phi Slamma Jamma",
crying in their towels, pounding the court in disbelief. This was a never forget
moment and one that CBS still uses 28 years later to show the world, that
yes, you can believe in Cinderella.
Disbelief came over many in the college basketball world, when it was
learned that Lorenzo Charles, the man who put his signature on one of
the greatest moments in sports history, died while driving a bus in Raleigh,
North Carolina. This couldn't be. Charles, after all, was a legend. Someone
we remember as a rugged player with the physique of a Greek god.
He, even at the age of 47, appeared to be indestructible. Unfortunately,
like in most Greek plays, there is tragedy, and the death of Charles
The defining moment of Charles' athletic career and life, for that matter,
ranks up there with Bobby Thompson's "shot heard round the world",
and Kirk Gibson's earth-shattering home run in the 1988 World Series.
It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and anyone who saw it, can tell you
exactly where they were when it happened.
The moment was the exclamation point on a remarkable run by North Carolina
State, who had to beat North Carolina with Michael Jordan, and Virginia,
which had the immortal Ralph Sampson, in the ACC Tournament, just to
get into the big dance. Once they got there, they turned into the "Cardiac
Pack", with a double-overtime win over Pepperdine in the opening round
and several other nail biters on the road to the title game.
They weren't given much of chance to beat Houston, which had a freshman
phenom named Hakeem Olajuwon and one of the game's best players in
Clyde "The Glide" Drexler. The Cougars were double-digit favorites to
beat the Cardiac Pack. But Charles and NC State persevered. They got
the last-shot, which was a 30-foot prayer be Derrick Whittenburg. It
was answered by Charles, who was seemingly stunned as the ball flushed
through the basket, igniting mayhem that's never been matched by
any Cinderella on the dance floor.
The moment was so pure, so emotional, and so good for the game of
college basketball. It reconfirmed what the 1980 U.S Olympic hockety
team taught us. Miracles do indeed, happen. It re-inforced to us that David
really can beat Goliath and that no matter how bad things get, you can never
stop believing in yourself and your dreams.
Lorenzo Charles may be gone, but his shot and his moment, will live on forever.
Rest in peace, 43.