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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Jimmy V finally found somebody to hug."

It instantly became one of the most classic moments in sports history.

Coach Jim Valvano's North Carolina State - a scrappy team that had fought tooth and claw in defiance of all the odds - against University of Houston for the 1983 NCAA Basketball Championship. Houston: the team of "Phi Slamma Jamma". Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. No wonder one sports writer said that "Trees will tap dance, elephants will race in the Indianapolis 500 and Orson Welles will skip dinner" before Jimmy V's Wolfpack would beat the Cougars.

But we all know what happened. With seconds left in the game and the scored tied at 52, State's Dereck Whittenburg made a desperate launch of the ball. Lorenzo Charles was right at the basket, caught the ball and dunked it hard!

North Carolina State had done it! And in those wild seconds after the buzzer, Coach Valvano - overwhelmed with elation and disbelief - ran onto the floor looking for somebody, for anybody, to give a hug to.

It's moments like these that are the stuff of legends.

Jimmy V passed away ten years later in 1993, nearly a year after being diagnosed with bone cancer.

And yesterday afternoon, as '83 team member Thurl Bailey put it, the coach "finally found somebody to hug."

Lorenzo Charles died yesterday in a bus accident on I-40 in Raleigh. He was 47.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family and loved ones.

In his memory, here are the final seconds of the 1983 championship, featuring Charles making what many have said is the single greatest play in college basketball history.