RALEIGH, N.C. — Former North Carolina State basketball star Lorenzo Charles, the muscular forward whose last-second dunk gave the underdog Wolfpack the 1983 national collegiate championship, was killed Monday when a bus he was driving crashed, a company official said Monday.
Elite Coach general manager Brad Jackson said Charles, 47, worked for the company and was driving one of its buses on Interstate 40.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said no passengers were aboard.
Charles secured his spot in N.C. State lore 28 years ago in the final moments of the Wolfpack’s matchup with Houston in the national championship game.
He grabbed Dereck Whittenburg’s 30-foot air ball and dunked it at the buzzer to give N.C. State a 54-52 win and its second national title, sending coach Jim Valvano spilling onto the court, scrambling for someone to hug in what has become one of the lasting images of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s still kind of amazing to me that ... people are still talking about it,” Charles said in an excerpt from his comments about the championship game on his N.C. State Web page. “I remember when (it) first happened, I figured I would have my 15 minutes of fame and that would be it. Here we are and it is still a conversational piece. I don’t really think that was the only great Final Four finish that has been played since then, but for some reason people just single out that game and talk about it. Maybe because it was such a David and Goliath thing.”
N.C. State entered the NCAA tournament with a 17-10 record, having beaten Virginia to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and an automatic berth into the national field. Charles would hit two free throws with 23 seconds left in the West Regional finals against the Cavaliers to give the Wolfpack a 63-62 victory and the spot in the Final Four.
The famous win against Houston is also memorable because of personable coach Jim Valvano’s emotional burst onto the court afterward, running around almost in disbelief at his team’s improbable run to the championship.
Charles finished his college career two years later with 1,535 total points — 15th on the school’s scoring list — and his .575 shooting percentage in 1985 remains a school record for seniors. He played one season in the NBA, averaging 3.4 points in 36 games with the Atlanta Hawks in 1985-86, and played internationally and in the Continental Basketball Association until 1999.