The star of the moment that lives for all time in sports clips is Jim Valvano, not Lorenzo Charles. But it was the dunk by Lorenzo Charles, who died in a bus crash Monday at the age of 47, that brought about the iconic moment — and gave North Carolina State its upset of Houston in the 1983 NCAA championship game.
The death of Charles, who was alone and driving a tourist bus in Raleigh, N.C., at the time of the crash, left his former Wolfpack teammates in a state of shock.
“It’s just an awful day,” said Derrick Whittenburg, whose errant 30-footer was the shot that Charles dunked. “An awful, awful day.”
For Charles, the best of his basketball career ended with that shot. He played a year in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks, then played internationally and in the Continental Basketball Association. After he stopped playing basketball, he returned to Wake Forest, N.C., and drove buses for several transportation companies in the area, according to the N.C. State website.
“It’s still kind of amazing to me that ... people are still talking about it,” Charles said, via gopack.com. “I remember when [it] first happened, I figured I would have my 15 minutes of fame and that would be it. Here we are and it is still a conversational piece. I don’t really think that was the only great Final Four finish that has been played since then, but for some reason people just single out that game and talk about it. Maybe because it was such a David and Goliath thing.”
The play, Charles said 25 years later, was a mistake. “Most people say I was the guy who was in the right place at the right time,” said Charles, whose number was retired by the school in 2008. “Actually, I was in the wrong place at the right time, because as an offensive rebounder, the particular position I was standing in when Dereck shot the ball was the wrong place to be.
“I was standing under the cylinder, which is exactly where you don't want to be if you are going to be a decent offensive rebounder.”