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Lorenzo Charles, 1963-2011

There isn't a lot I can add to Joe Posnanski's outstanding tribute to Lorenzo Charles, and if you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to do so. I particularly enjoy accounts like this one because I wasn't around to experience that era myself. Often I wish I were 20 years older, and it's for no other reason than that team. Jimmy V. Sidney Lowe. Thurl Bailey. Dereck Whittenburg. And of course, Lorenzo Charles.

Sometimes it's weird to go back and watch those old games. As someone who really only started getting serious about following NC State in the late 1990s, there's a cognitive dissonance to it. I remember watching the first round game against Pepperdine on ESPN Classic one time and slipping into well-worn habits even though I knew the outcome. This is amazing--how can this be? Fortune meeting the clutchiness they exhibited in that and so many other close games that year. There's no better example of just how tenuous the whole thing was. But the way it ended, it's like they all just knew. Eventually they'd be here:

My favorite part of this footage, aside from the obvious, has always been the reaction of the guys calling the game as the end arrives. "Oh, it's a long way..." and then there's Lorenzo Charles all alone and then it's all over in an instant and Billy Packer lets out a little yell, and there's a couple of seconds of stunned silence before Packer is able to put a sentence together.


Outside our apartment window, I heard car horns blaring. Telephones rang up and down the street. And I felt about as happy as I had ever been. I’m not going to tell you that moment changed me or inspired me or anything like that. I can only say that the happiness consumed me. When you’re a little kid, it seems to me, everything seems possible. And as you get older, you find that it isn’t exactly true — you can’t really fly, Santa Claus might not land on your roof, Superman is not a career path. And the disappointments keep coming: You might not become president, you might not sing in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden, you probably won’t play center field for the Dodgers or quarterback for the Cowboys or point guard for the Celtics, you probably won’t be the host of The Tonight Show. Those years of growing up can be a cold splash of reality. Wonder becomes myth. Magic becomes magic TRICKS. Possible becomes impossible.

But when Lorenzo Charles dunked the ball — the possible lived again.

He's absolutely right. It's why this play endures and resonates with someone like me, who wasn't around to experience the play in its time. Sure, the dunk won a national title, and that's a big part of it, but beyond that bottom line result there is the promise of hope. This is where we can go, and we don't have to wonder, because it's right there. It's definitive evidence that "NC State shit" is not a way of life but merely a fad, and for me, rolling that clip is the easiest way to say this is why I care so deeply.

Thank you for that, Lorenzo.