Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Legendary Shot Maker Lorenzo Charles of N.C. State Dies In Crash

The famous shot
Lorenzo Charles, the man who brought down Houston’s high flying Phi Slamma Jamma with an improbable dunk to give N.C. State and now legendary coach Jim Valvano the 1983 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship, was killed yesterday when a charter bus he was driving crashed in Raleigh, NC.

Police say Charles, 47, was driving a charter bus westbound on I-40 when he lost control on an exit ramp and crashed into a stand of trees. He was the only person on the bus.

Lorenzo’s catch and follow-up dunk of the last-second desperation shot from teammate Derek Whittenburg is part of NCAA tournament lore. That moment was quickly followed by another that basketball fans will never forget: late Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano running around the floor in amazed euphoria looking for someone to hug. 

The upset of the seeming unbeatable Cougars led by future NBA all-stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler helped propel the Big Dance into the stratosphere of national popularity.

That said, Charles' reach in the sports world went beyond his contributions on the court. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, he drove for the Duke lacrosse team and became a part of the family, coach John Danowski said Monday. Danowski had Charles talk to the team during the NCAA tournament in 2010, before the Blue Devils won the national title.

Charles was driving for Elite Tours, an Apex company also known as Elite Coach.

Whittenburg and Charles (Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)
Charles, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School. After his days at NCSU, he was selected 41st overall in the 1985 NBA draft and played one season in the NBA, averaging 3.4 points in 36 games with the Atlanta Hawks in 1985-86.  He then played internationally and in the Continental Basketball Association until 1999.

Valvano's wife, Pam, said Monday that she was heartbroken to hear of Charles' passing and described him as always laid-back and polite.

"That night in Albuquerque, you'd never known he'd made the big shot. He was so humble," she said. "That was just Lorenzo, though. He was the same nice young guy whether we'd won or lost. He was quiet, but he loved people and loved being around those guys on that team."

Charles lived in Wake Forest with his wife, Theresa.

To read more and see a tribute to Charles, click here

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