North Carolina college basketball icon Charles dies in bus crash

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2011 12:53 PM
North Carolina college basketball icon Charles dies in bus crash

By Ned Barnett

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - North Carolina State University fans on Tuesday mourned the death of the former basketball player whose alert grab and dunk of an errant shot won the 1983 NCAA championship for the Wolfpack.

Lorenzo Emile Charles, 47, died after a tour bus he was driving veered off Interstate-40 in Raleigh about 5 p.m. on Monday. He was alone on the bus, and initial reports show no other vehicles were involved, a police spokesman said.

Charles was not only an N.C. State hero, but an icon of the NCAA's annual "March Madness" playoffs. Replays of his game-winning dunk are shown repeatedly during tournament time to exemplify how an underdog team can scramble to victory.

Charles made history on April 4, 1983, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when his teammate Dereck Whittenburg launched a desperate shot from about 30 feet with less than five seconds remaining in a tie game.

The ball was coming down about two feet short of the basket when Charles caught it and dunked it as time expired.

The basket sealed the 54-52 championship victory over the heavily favored University of Houston.

The win capped a series of upsets by the "Cardiac Pack" coached by the late Jim Valvano. N.C. State's run to the title is considered one of the greatest ever in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Charles, who played one year in the NBA and later in Europe and in the Continental Basketball Association, was amazed by the enduring memory of his winning dunk.

"When it happened, I thought I would have my little 15 minutes of fame and that would be it," he said in a 1984 interview.

Charles lived in Wake Forest, N.C., with his wife, Theresa.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Bohan)