There had been so many close calls for Dean Smith before March 29, 1982, so many if-onlys people were starting to wonder if the legendary coach from North Carolina would ever win it all.
Then a young man from Wilmington, N.C. named Michael Jeffrey Jordan hit the first of so many memorable shots in his career, lifting his team and his coach to glory.
Of course, it wasn't supposed to take that long for Smith to claim his first title. The 1981-82 season was his 21st coaching at North Carolina. He had won over 400 games there at that point. UNC also made it to the Final Four six times and won eight ACC titles under his watch. His closest call was when UNC lost to John Wooden's UCLA dynasty in the 1968 NCAA final.
In today's age, ESPN would have run daily segments in March wondering if Smith had it in him to coach a team to the title. Stephen A. Smith would say it's blasphemous to question Smith's coaching prowess, while Skip Bayless would say he lacked the clutch gene. At the time, the coverage wasn't nearly as intense, but there was certainly pressure for UNC to pull through.
In the '82 tournament, things didn't start easy. North Carolina edged James Madison by two points in the opening round, needing a charge call to go its way in the final minute to help secure the win. The Tar Heels won the next three games by a wider margin, but again found themselves in trouble against Georgetown, trailing by one with 30 seconds remaining. That's when Jimmy Black found Jordan, who made the pull-up jumper to give the Tar Heels a 63-62 lead with 15 seconds left.
Georgetown had a chance to win the game on the ensuing possession, but Fred Brown thought UNC captain James Worthy was a teammate, mistakingly passing him the ball. The Tar Heels held on to win the title, Smith had his first championship (he won another in 1992-93) and the Jordan legacy had its first moment.
Here's some footage from the closing moments of the game, played on this day almost 40 years ago.