An Ode to: The 1983 N.C. State Wolfpack

Labeled the most storied run in NCAA history, the “Cardiac Pack” proved to be a fitting nickname for the ’83 Champs.
The Pack's Championship run was truly inspirational.

Coach Jim Valvano celebrates the National Championship with Guard Dereck Whittenburg.
(Photo courtesy of Patheos)

The year was 1983. The number one song in the country was “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan. And, most importantly, I was not even born yet.

As a sports fan, you would have to be filled with ignorance to forget the year 1983. Not because of a hit song or one of the most popular Presidents of all time. Because, 1983 was the year of the Wolfpack.

North Carolina State entered the 1983 NCAA Tournament as a six seed. How did they get there? The Cinderella story in between bubble team and national champs often goes untold.

Needing to win the conference tournament, State did just that. They beat Wake Forest, Michael Jordan’s North Carolina, and Ralph Sampson’s Virginia to make the field. But, the Pack were only getting started.

Next, the NCAA Tournament. There is a reason why N.C. State’s storied postseason run is often touted as the greatest ever. It is not simply because of “the dunk” to finish Championship game versus an unbeatable Houston team, or the flamboyant head coach whose personality could light up a room. All of that was great, but it really was all about the journey.

As if winning the ACC Tournament to get an NCAA Tournament bid was not enough, the Pack ended up beating eleventh-seeded Pepperdine, third-seeded UNLV, tenth-seeded Utah, one-seeded Virginia, fourth-seeded Georgia, and one-seeded Houston. Out of all nine games that they needed to win (ACC Tournament included), N.C. State was losing in the last minute of the game in seven of those nine. All of the final second finishes came full-circle in one play: Dereck Whittenburg’s historic pass (this is what they call it in Raleigh) to Lorenzo Charles…for the win:

This, my friends, is how you earn the nickname “Cardiac Pack.”

However, I can’t end the story just yet. In reminiscing of the “Cardiac Pack’s” once-in-a-lifetime trek through the tournament, it would be a disservice to not devote a paragraph to recognizing their historic upsets along the way. Think about how incredible this truly is: they beat Ralph Sampson’s team twice, Michael Jordan’s team once, and a Houston team that featured Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on the biggest stage – the national championship. Those are not four great college basketball players. They could be the four greatest college basketball players ever.

We may never see a coach with the style and grace Jim Valvano provided us on the sidelines of each game, or the passion and grit displayed by his team within the lines of play. Because, to be honest, the 1983 Wolfpack really were one-of-a-kind.

Fast forward to this season, and the Mark Gottfried-led Wolfpack are on the verge of their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, which is no small accomplishment in its own right. But the real question remains: can State go on a 1983-type of run in 2015? Maybe. Remember, all you have to do is follow the simple Jimmy-V formula: “survive and advance.”

For more on the 1983 N.C. State basketball team, watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 Documentary. What are your memories of the 1983 N.C. State Championship run? We would love to hear your thoughts. Tweet us, leave a comment below or drop us a line on our Facebook page.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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