April 4, 1983: North Carolina State's Lorenzo Charles dunks the ball to give N.C. State a 54-52 win over Houston in the NCAA Championship game in Albuquerque, N.M.
April 4, 1983: North Carolina State's Lorenzo Charles dunks the ball to give N.C. State a 54-52 win over Houston in the NCAA Championship game in Albuquerque, N.M. AP
If you're even a casual fan of college basketball, you know the story of the "cardiac kids" from North Carolina State, their coach Jim Valvano and the underdog Wolfpack's remarkable 54-52 win over heavily favored Houston in the 1983 NCAA championship game.
The player who sealed the victory with a last-second dunk, Lorenzo Charles, died Monday when the bus he was driving crashed into some trees in West Raleigh, N.C.
Charles, 47, was the only person in the vehicle, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
The newspaper says that Charles was a driver for Elite Tours, the company that owned the bus, and that in recent years:
"He drove for the Duke lacrosse team and became a part of the family, coach John Danowski said Monday. Danowski had Charles talk to the team during the NCAA tournament in 2010, before the Blue Devils won the national title.
" 'It's great that he scored that winning basket, but he was so much more than that,' Danowski said. 'Everyone here loved him. We are all heartbroken.' "
At N.C. State, the website for men's basketball writes that after the '83 championship, "Charles grew stronger and bigger during his final two years for Jim Valvano's Wolfpack, earning first-team All-ACC and All-America honors his senior season. He was taken with the 41st pick of the 1985 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks and played professionally in the NBA and overseas for more than a decade.
"When he retired," the website adds, "he returned to Wake Forest, N.C., where he became a bus driver for various transportation companies in the Triangle."
And, the website writes:
"Charles was a regular at NC State basketball games after he returned to the Triangle, usually taking a seat behind the team bench. He always smiled and listened to every fan who had the nerve to tell him exactly what they were doing when he scored the dunk that made him famous."
If you haven't seen it in a while, here is a video of Charles' moment in basketball history.
Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. NPR.org editor Todd Holzman alerts us to this poignant footnote: Valvano, who fought a very public battle against cancer, was also 47 when he died. The V Foundation, named for the coach, has gone on to raise "more than $100 million and [has] awarded cancer research grants in 38 states and the District of Columbia."