- (Photo: NC State via The Christian Post)
Lorenzo Charles, a forward on North Carolina State's 1983 national championship basketball team, was killed on Monday when the bus he was driving on Interstate 40 in Raleigh crashed.
He was working as a driver for Elite Coach when the accident occurred. Fortunately, there were no passengers on board at the time and no other vehicles were involved, but little else has been released about how the crash occurred.
The Associated Press reported that video shows the rear wheels of the bus in an embankment, the right front tire elevated off of the road and tree limbs through the frame where the windshield was. The college basketball legend died at only the age of 47.
Charles is perhaps best known for the last moments of the NCAA championship game where his last-second dunk elevated his Wolfpack team over a strong opponent in the Houston Cougars (led by future NBA superstars Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon) with a final score of 54-52. After teammate Dereck Whittenburg threw up a shot from 30 feet away, Charles caught the ball in mid-air and came down with a dunk to provide his team with its second national title.
Whittenburg told Andy Katz of ESPN.com that “it's a terrible day” for him and his former teammates. “He's just a positive, a warm spirit. He was a competitor. He was tough and all that. Off the court, he was a gentle giant. Man, he came with that bubbly smile.”
He also described Charles as a “big bear” when he was on the court. Charles finished his career in college basketball two years after their national title win with 1,535 points and a .575 shooting percentage in his senior year, a school record for seniors that he still holds to this day.
The 1983 NC State team entered the NCAA tournament as big-time underdogs, having acquired a regular season record of only 17-10 but received a spot in the tournament after beating Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Win after improbable win the “cardiac kids,” as they came to be known, made their way to the championship, where they stunned a number one ranked Houston team. The reaction from coach Jim Valvano after the win, running around the court in shock, looking for someone to hug, has become an iconic moment in sports history to many.
Those who saw that game remember Charles for his great play, but those who knew Charles personally also knew him as a kind and humble person. His fellow teammate and last year's coach at NC State, Sidney Lowe, said in an ESPN.com report that what he remembers about Charles was his smile. “That's what I remember about him. He had the biggest smile. He was excited to see you. He was always just so positive.”
Lowe also said that Charles didn't like all the attention that resulted from the big play. “He was very humble,” he said. “That was his personality and character ... He stayed humble. That's who he was.”
Charles played professional basketball through 1999, spending one season with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks in 1985-1986 before playing abroad and in the Continental Basketball Association. In 2008, as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the team's championship, NC State retired Charles' number 43 jersey.