The Washington Post

Lorenzo Charles’s historic shot lifted N.C. State, Jim Valvano to NCAA title

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.”

The Lorenzo Charles dunk that gave N.C. State a championship. (AP)

His dunk and the reaction of Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993, may be shownendlessly every March, but Charles said he’d moved on.

“It’s still kind of amazing to me that ... people are still talking about it,” Charles said, via “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.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.


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