1983 NC State title team to meet president May 9

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

It's common practice these days for championship teams to be honored at the White House, but that wasn't always the case. Members of the 1983 North Carolina State NCAA tournament title team didn't get to do it and have felt for years that they missed out. That is about to change.

President Barack Obama will honor the remaining members of the team on May 9 in the nation's capital. They can thank forward Thurl Bailey for getting it done.

The 1983 title game between NC State and Houston is widely considered one of the greatest ever. The Wolfpack came in as major underdogs against a Cougars team led by eventual Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. But the Wolfpack had an enthusiastic coach in Jimmy Valvano who wouldn't let his team give up.

Tied in the final moments, NC State guard Dereck Whittenburg launched a long jumper that came up way short. Lorenzo Charles grabbed the ball from midair and dunked for a 54-52 win. Valvano went bananas, running around the court hugging his players.

After winning the championship, Valvano did meet President Ronald Reagan at the White House, and Bailey, Whittenburg and fellow senior Sidney Lowe spoke to him via satellite from campus.

Members of the team have held reunions for years and have discussed how great it would have been to go to the White House. It's now happening, but Valvano and Charles won't be there. Valvano died of cancer in 1993, but not before he delivered his famous speech at the 1993 ESPYS in which he said "don't give up, don't ever give up." Charles was killed in a bus crash in 2011.

Bailey, who led the Wolfpack with 15 points in the title game, spearheaded the effort to make the trip. He wrote a letter to the president in which he said, "the one thing that has eluded us for these many years is a chance for the members of our team to visit the White House by invitation of the President of the United States. But my hope is that you will grant an opportunity to a team who truly embodied the definition of what sports should represent."

He also reached out to his friend Utah senator Orrin Hatch, who also wrote a letter to the president.

"The joy and the euphoria of winning a national title against all odds, as well as the pain and devastation of losing members of that family, are important parts of who I am," Bailey said, according to the Wolfpack website. "Contacting President Obama was one piece of our incredible journey that had eluded us for far too long."