NPR logo

College Hoops, A Dreamgirl And 'One Shining Moment'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
College Hoops, A Dreamgirl And 'One Shining Moment'

College Hoops, A Dreamgirl And 'One Shining Moment'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


As one sport gets underway, another ends its season tomorrow night, and it's a dramatic matchup in the NCAA men's basketball final: Three-time champion Duke will face Butler University, a school with about 4,000 students and no Final Four appearances until this year.

The champions may change, but the end of the tournament remains the same. And for the past 24 years, it has ended with this song called "One Shining Moment."

(Soundbite of song, "One Shining Moment")

Mr. LUTHER VANDROSS (Musician): (Singing) The ball is tipped, and there you are. You're running for your life. You're a shooting star...

WERTHEIMER: CBS Television uses this song behind a montage of some of the tournament's most inspiring moments. College basketball fans look forward to it all year, and they're passionate about this version of the song performed by the late Luther Vandross.

But this year, Luther's out, and Jennifer Hudson is in.

Producer Phil Harrell looked into the history of "One Shining Moment" and why some fans are crying foul.

(Soundbite of song, "One Shining Moment")

Mr. VANDROSS: (Singing) But the time is short...

PHIL HARRELL: Okay, it ain't Beethoven, but something special happens when this song meets those clips. A player rises up in slow motion to hit that last second three-pointer. His team surges from the bench to meet him in a mad embrace, and the song surges right along with them.

Well, even the most hardened sports fan gets a little leaky during that "One Shining Moment."

Unidentified Announcer: One second. Come on, desperation. (Unintelligible).

HARRELL: CBS producer Tracy Morris is one of the people who decided to make the switch to Jennifer Hudson.

Ms. TRACY MORRIS (Producer, CBS): It seems that people have really embraced Luther Vandross' version, but it was never meant to be one singer year after year.

HARRELL: There have been two other singers. Before Luther Vandross, the voice of Teddy Pendergrass graced the song.

(Soundbite of song, "One Shining Moment")

Mr. TEDDY PENDERGRASS (Singer): (Singing) That one shining moment...

HARRELL: And the very first version was recorded by the song's writer, David Barrett.

(Soundbite of song, "One Shining Moment")

Mr. DAVID BARRETT (Songwriter): (Singing) knew you were alive.

Mr. BARRETT: I refer to my version as the Hoosier version.

HARRELL: David Barrett wrote the song after watching Indiana native Larry Bird play one night. Barrett scrawled the lyrics on a restaurant napkin, and when he got home, he wrote the music in 20 minutes. It's been paying dividends for a quarter century. He feels the song remains vital because the singer changes with the generations.

Mr. BARRETT: I think a lot of younger folks, they have their singers. And Jennifer is their singer. And she's wonderful.

HARRELL: In case you're not one of the younger folks, Jennifer Hudson was a contestant on "American Idol." She parlayed that popularity into an Oscar-winning performance as Effie White in the film "Dreamgirls."

Mr. CHRIS CHASE (Blogger, The Dagger): I'm not going to say I didn't see "Dreamgirls," and Jennifer Hudson was excellent, but that doesn't mean I want Effie being next to Mike Krzyzewski during the NCAA tournament.

HARRELL: That's Chris Chase. He writes for the college basketball blog The Dagger. He's called the song the height of schmaltz, and he worried that Hudson's voice would only intensify that.

Mr. CHASE: She stretches out the songs, and it's just very, very sappy. The song itself "One Shining Moment" is sappy in and of itself. Teddy Pendergrass brought a machismo to it. Now with Jennifer Hudson, it's almost as if CBS has surrendered to the schmaltz.

HARRELL: The segment producer this year is Joe Zappulla. He has advice for Chris Chase and anyone apprehensive about the change.

Mr. JOE ZAPPULLA (Producer, CBS Sports): Just listen to it. On Monday night, I don't think there's going to be anybody who's disappointed.

(Soundbite of song, "One Shining Moment")

Ms. JENNIFER HUDSON (Singer): (Singing) You always did the best 'cuz inside you knew. Oh, and one shining moment, you reached...

HARRELL: This is a sneak peek at the Jennifer Hudson version. Joe Zappulla knows what this song means to the viewers at home and even to the players on the court. Zappulla took over the production of "One Shining Moment" back in 2000, when Mateen Cleaves and the Michigan State Spartans won it all. Zappulla tells the story of how he was chatting with Cleaves' mother before the game.

Mr. ZAPPULLA: And she says to me: Mateen's lifelong dream is to be the last shot in "One Shining Moment." I said: I'll tell you what. If Mateen does his job, I'll do mine. So Mateen goes out there, he has the game of his life. He has a shot when he nails his three pointer, and he goes by our midcourt cameraman, Hulk(ph), and he just gives this look, like, of defiance.

So I put all this into "One Shining Moment" that year. As soon as my editor, Tom Blair, hits play, I run out to the court, and they're showing "One Shining Moment" on the big screens all over the arena, and then Mateen sees that he is indeed the last shot of "One Shining Moment." Him and Coach Izzo break down crying, genuine tears. I'm watching this from seven, 10 feet away, and professionally, it's well, heck, it was something I'll always remember.

(Soundbite of song, "One Shining Moment")

Ms. HUDSON: (Singing) One shining moment.

HARRELL: Tomorrow night, either the Duke Blue Devils or the Butler Bulldogs will have the honor of being frozen in time in the last shot of "One Shining Moment."

Phil Harrell, NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.