Last night I laughed, I thought, I cried. I laughed some more. I thought some more. I cried some more. The more thoughts ran through my mind, the more I cried. The more I watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, Survive and Advance, the more I realized just how special this story was.
It was over a year ago when I was perusing the North Carolina State University Pack Pride message board and I saw a thread(discussion) about a new 30 for 30 documentary. It was almost too good to be true. ESPN was producing a new documentary on the 1983 Men’s Basketball National Championship team. Seriously? Whoop whoooop!! I was beyond excited for two reasons: 1. 30 for 30 documentaries are huge! 2. They were doing a positive 30 for 30 documentary about my school. How cool is that? At the time, I wondered how well I would be able to contain my excitement.
On April 4, 1983, the North Carolina State University men’s basketball team shocked the world. One year old me was probably asleep in my crib, unaware of the historical moment that was taking place in the world. My mother knew. My grandparents knew. My brothers knew. However, as fate would have it, I would become the one with the most ties to the story.
August 2001, my junior year at North Carolina State University. I was a Student Assistant in the North Carolina State University Athletic Media Relations Office. As a Student Assistant, I would generate press releases, assist in the production of media guides and press conferences, field calls from the local and national media and serve as a media liaison at countless sporting events. I loved being a Student Assistant! It afforded me the opportunity to meet Wolfpack legends David Thompson(DT), Coach Kay Yow, Tommy Burleson, Monte Towe, Torry Holt, Julius Hodge as well as Kareem Adbdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Coach Pat Summitt, and Kirk Herbstreit, just to name a few. While I enjoyed doing all these things as they gave me a tremendous amount of hands on experience, one of my favorite things to do was the hang out in The Dungeon. The Dungeon was the nickname given to the locked cage in the basement of Reynolds Coliseum(former home of the men’s basketball team). In The Dungeon, we kept numerous file cabinets that housed folders filled with photos, newspaper articles, magazine clippings, collectibles, trophies and videos of student-athletes, past and present. I am talking DT, Burleson, Tom Brown, Tab Thacker, Julie Shea, Roman Gabriel, Holt, Genia Beasley, Tab Ramos and the 1983 championship team.
It was never unusual for me to go down to The Dungeon with the intent of grabbing a picture out of DT’s folder, only to end up browsing through the 1983 championship folder to see if I could find out something new. The story was absolutely fascinating and it truly played out like a movie. A man had a dream. A dream to cut down the nets. This man took a job at a university with a rich basketball tradition with the same end goal in mind, cutting down the nets. In the the midst of the man’s third year at the helm, with his team enjoying one of their best starts, his star player, a senior, went down with a broken foot. From that point on the man’s team experienced an up and down year where it seemingly tried to find its footing in a very competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Just when it seemed like the impossible would indeed be that, a road never traveled opened up…
The documents I found in The Dungeon helped me to somewhat grasp just how special this man’s team was. I began to understand a little more why Wolfpackers, past and present, always beamed with pride when talking about that team. Wanting to know more, I would often talk with Assistant Media Relations Director Bruce Winkworth, who was working at North Carolina State during the time of the 1983 run. The stories he would tell about that magical season always left me wishing I could rewind time and relive those moments as a student. The pictures he shared from pep rallies, games and the celebrations on Hillsborough Street and in the Brickyard after the championship game gave me chills down my spine and always left me just a little bit jealous.
March 17, 2013, the world premiere of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Survive and Advance.” The story of the 1983 North Carolina State University Men’s Basketball National Championship team and the man who inspired the dream, Jim Valvano affectionately known by Wolfpackers as Jimmy V. As I sat and watched the star player, Dereck Whittenburg, insert his humor into such a compelling story, I began to do what many others before me have done, beam with pride. Hearing the story from the mouths of Whittenburg, Thurl Bailey, Ernie Myers, Terry Gannon, Cozell McQueen and former Graduate Assistant, Max Perry infused with footage of Jimmy V, was more than enough to bring a grown woman and many grown men to tears. Up until last night, I understood how big this story was to Wolfpack Nation. After last night, I understood how big this story was to the ENTIRE nation. As Twitter blew up, with five of the top 10 nationwide trends, centering on this particular story, I realized that the 1983 championship run was crafted to inspire millions in a way I think no one at that time ever imagined. As an alumnus of North Carolina State University, pride is the best way to describe how I felt knowing I was connected to what Sports Illustrated named “the greatest moment in college basketball history in the 20th Century.”
During my tenure in the North Carolina State University Athletic Department, I had the pleasure of meeting members from the 1983 team. Most of the meetings were brief and some members were even shocked that I knew who they were. I am not sure if I ever said thank you to any of them. I am hoping I did because their belief in themselves strengthened a nation’s resolve to follow in their lead. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy V. What an honor it would have been to be in his presence and grab nuggets of wisdom from him. I am sure we would have shared some laughs as well. Not only was he destined to lead champions on the court but his courageous battle with cancer destined him to inspire generations after him to never quit. After watching the documentary, I truly believe this end was result was what God had planned all along.
To the late great Coach Jimmy V and the 1983 championship team: THANK YOU!!! Thank you for showing us how to believe. Thank you for dreaming. Thank you for never saying never. Thank you for seeing beyond what you saw. Thank you for fighting. Thank you for making us laugh, think and cry. Thank you for loving one another. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being a part of THE PACK! Thank you for being a living example of the V Foundation’s motto, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!” Thank you for teaching us how to SURVIVE obstacles that come our way and how to ADVANCE pass them. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I want to send a special THANK YOU to the documentary’s director, Jonathan Hock. What an amazing piece of art. You should definitely get some awards for this. If you do not, I am sure Wolfpack Nation will be very unhappy. You know how passionate we are.
Proud Alumnus, Kassaundra S.