Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A passing recalls celebration for all underdogs

Do you remember where you were the April night in 1983 when N.C. State shocked Houston for the NCAA men's basketball championship?

Lorenzo Charles' tragic death Monday behind the wheel of a charter bus in Raleigh, N.C., brings that historic game and night to mind. He was just 47.

It was Charles who dunked teammate Dereck Whittenburg's desperation shot at the buzzer for an improbable 54-52 upset victory, one of the greatest in the annals of the national championship game.

I was 33 and sports editor of the Boca Raton News.

Along with three friends, who knew more about basketball than I ever will, we watched the game at Tip's Tavern, a favorite neighborhood joint in old Boca with pool tables, a couple of TVs and a great jukebox.

It's long gone now.

Not the memories, though.

What I remember so fondly was how crazy we were with joy and laughter at the game's incredible ending.

It was so uplifting for anyone anywhere who believes in and roots for the underdog.

That's what N.C. State's iconic coach, Jim Valvano, who died in April 1993, did for us.

That's what Lorenzo Charles did for us that night, too.

We will never forget them. Or that magical night.

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