Charles, N.C. State’s ’83 title game hero, dies in bus crash

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Lorenzo Charles, the man who dunked N.C. State to a national title in 1983, was killed in a bus wreck Monday.

Charles, 47, was driving a bus by Elite Coach from to Durham, N.C., to pick up passengers when it crashed around 5 p.m. on Interstate 40 near N.C. Highway 54. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck.

No passengers were on the bus at the time.

Charles is most famous for his game-winning basket against Houston in the ’83 title game, catching an errant 30-foot air ball from teammate Dereck Whittenberg and dunking it as time expired. It capped a stunning upset of the heavily favored Cougars and gave the Wolfpack their second NCAA title.

“It’s still kind of amazing to me that … people are still talking about it,” Charles said in a story on the N.C. State Web site. “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.”

Charles’ name might not be instantly recognizable, but the dunk certainly is. It’s part of every March Madness highlights package.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puQvU4PBzhI]

He played one NBA season, making the N.C. State play his shining moment. He finished his college career with 1,535 points (15th on the school’s scoring list) and still owns the record for field goal percentage by a senior.

“I’m just shocked and saddened,” current N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried told ESPN. “Our whole staff sat around with him for a half-hour and told stories (Sunday). We had camp going on and he just came by the camp.”

“We had a great time reminiscing. He was so full of life. I’m so stunned. Not only did NC State lose one of the all-time greats as a human being, everyone loved him. He was a big-hearted guy. Everyone from the NC State family is calling. They’re all so saddened and stunned.”

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