Lorenzo Charles (1963 - 2011)

Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 by Travis Cody in

Lorenzo Charles
Lorenzo Charles, who capped an improbable NCAA championship for NC State over Houston in 1983 with a dunk of a missed shot, died yesterday when the bus he was driving crashed.  He was 47.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  Yeah, I know that's a cliche.  But NC State didn't belong in the tournament that year.  The team was 17-10.  The Wolfpack had to win the ACC Tournament first just to get in the NCAAs.  They beat cross town rival North Carolina, which had a roster of future NBA players such as Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, and Kenny Smith.

Then the Wolfpack beat Virginia in the ACC championship game.  UVA was led at that time by 3 time national Player of the Year Ralph Sampson.

In the NCAA tournament, the Wolpack were a 6 seed.  They beat Pepperdine by 2, UNLV by 1, Utah in a blow out.  Then they had to face 1 seed Virginia again in the regional final.  NC State won by 1 to advance to Albuquerque NM and the Final Four.

First they took out Georgia by 7.  Then they faced Houston, which was led by future NBA starts Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.  The Cougars had just beaten Louisville in an astonishing national semifinal game, which many thought was the "real" national championship.

Enter NC State.  Call them a team of destiny, but they would not be denied.  And when Houston couldn't make a free throw down the stretch, the Wolfpack clawed their way back into the game.  And Lorezno Charles ended up in the right place at exactly the right time, to grab that last 30 foot airball shot by Derek Whittenberg and slam it home for a 54-52 victory.  Then the buzzer sounded, and Billy Packer uttered a phrase that has become synonymous with March Madness.

"They won it!  On the dunk!"

Charles finished his career at NC State as a National Champion.  He is 15th on the all time scoring list with 1535 points and still holds the NC State record for shooting percentage for seniors, at .575.  He was drafted into the NBA but only played one season for Atlanta.

We tend to lose track of the athletes, but never the moments they leave behind.  I don't know much about the life of Lorenzo Charles once he left the hardwood.  But I'll always remember that dunk, that phrase, and a wacky Italian head coach named Jim Valvano running around the court like a madman, looking for someone to hug after his Wolfpack pulled off the improbable upset. 

(photo credit to Associated Press, 4 April 1983)
 Lorenzo Emile Charles
25 November 1963 - 27 June 2011
Forever a member of the "Cardiac 'Pack"


  1. Travis, that is so sad to hear about Lorenzo's death and at such a young age. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute of him.

  1. Mags says:

    Oh wow-how horrible. A bus crash? Wow...this is shocking. Very, very sad.

  1. Had not heard this news...very sad indeed.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    Nice tribute Trav. As you say we lose track of people but not of their achievements.

  1. Luma Rosa says:

    What a tragedy! He had a brilliant career! May he rest in peace!

  1. Terica says:

    Great article , thanks for the flashbacks of memories ! Peace i shared it on facebook too.