It’s been a tough last few days in the sports world as we mourn the loss of two memorable figures. Since this past Saturday, Nick Charles and Lorenzo Charles have both left us. Two gentlemen that I will never forget.
Nick Charles died on Saturday at the age of 64 after a two year battle with bladder cancer. Nick was the voice of the ShoBox series on Showtime and over the years I have had the pleasure if interviewing him many times. We would preview that weekend’s fights and reminisce about his days as the sports director at WJZ-TV here in Baltimore. A time that he enjoyed greatly. Nick would come on the show and make it seem like it was the highlight of his day to be talking to me. He was genuine. Nick ,of course, did much more than ShoBox. He was the face of CNN Sports for 17 years and covered every major sporting event in this country and beyond. Not bad for a former cab driver. Nick Charles was one of the nicest men I have ever known and I will miss him.
I didn’t know Lorenzo Charles but I was sad to see that he died in a bus accident yesterday at the age of 47. Charles was a forward for N.C. State and Jim Valvano back in 1983 when he and the Wolfpack made a memory for sports fans that will last a lifetime. The ’83 N.C. State basketball team made an incredible run through the NCAA Tournament and advanced all the way to the Championship Game against the heavily favored Houston Cougars and it’s “Phi Slama Jama” team featuring future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Houston was the No. 1 team in the country and had spanked No.2 Louisville in the National Semi-Finals.
The fact that they were supposed to get blown out did not deter N.C. State and the game was tied going into the final seconds. Wolfpack guard Derek Whittenburg tossed up a desperation 30-footer that was off the mark. However, out of nowhere, Charles catches the ball in mid-air and slams it through the hoop as the buzzer sounded giving the Wolfpack a 54-52 victory and the National Title.
I remember watching that game with a buddy of mine and we knew that we had just witnessed something special. Charles would become an All-ACC player and also played briefly in the NBA. But he will always be remembered for making one of the greatest shots in one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history. Lorenzo Charles may now be gone, but his accomplishment on that Monday night in 1983 will live on forever.