WASHINGTON (AP) North Carolina State University’s victorious 1983 men’s basketball team finally got its day at the White House on Monday. Older but no less happy, team members debated with President Barack Obama whether the famous, game-winning dunk came after a shot or pass.
At the time, the school wouldn’t cover the players’ transportation to Washington or hotel rooms. And accepting a donor’s offer would have violated NCAA rules. Only Wolfpack coach Jimmy Valvano met then-President Ronald Reagan.
“Everybody looks like they could still ball a little bit,” Obama said as he and Vice President Joe Biden posed for a photograph with the players. They presented the president with a red team jersey emblazoned with Obama’s name and the number 1 on the back.
Lorenzo Charles’ buzzer beater clinched the 54-52 victory over Houston, which featured Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. It came off of Dereck Whittenburg’s long-range heave with the clock ticking down.
Obama recalled a manic coach Valvano running across the court in joy after time expired, but the president asked the question that has always lingered over that final play: Did Charles’ catch and dunk come from a shot or pass? Obama got different answers from different players, and some laughs.
Monday’s honors came too late for NC State’s coach and the team’s winning scorer. Valvano died in 1993; Charles in 2011.
But more than three decades after the upset, Obama said he was glad to make up for the team missing the ritual White House trip.
Officials organized the visit after lobbying by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, acting on a request from former Wolfpack and Utah Jazz forward Thurl Bailey.