NCAA Basketball: Five Most Important Shots in March Madness History

Published 02/18/2021, 4:30 PM EST

NCAA Basketball always brings plenty of excitement to the viewers. Every year, college ballers battle it out to etch their name in history by winning the National Championship. March Madness never disappoints in that aspect as top schools across the country always put on a show with their desire to win. 


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Over the years, NCAA Basketball has witnessed some spectacular moments take place on the court. Some of them will forever be remembered due to the significance behind those iconic moments. 

NCAA Basketball: Five iconic moments that can never be erased from history


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Game-winning shots are somewhat like a celebrated tradition in basketball. The NCAA has witnessed plenty of buzzer-beaters and game-winning shots over the years, and here are the five of the best.

5. Michael Jordan delivers game-winner in his freshman season

It just seemed like destiny. North Carolina head coach Dean Smith spent 20 years waiting for a National Championship ever since taking over in 1961.

He groomed several talents who came his way, but it was a freshman named Michael Jordan who scored the most important shot of the 1982 National Championship game that earned Smith the elusive Division I title. 

The Tar Heels were playing favorites Georgetown Hoyas in the championship game, and Jordan received the ball with just 18 seconds remaining in the game. The shooting guard launched the ball into the net to hand the Tar Heels a much-needed one-point lead in the game. 

MJ’s iconic shot will forever be remembered as he made the shot under extreme pressure. North Carolina was trailing Georgetown 61-62 and Michael Jordan led the Tar Heels to the championship by scoring the last field goal of the game! 

4. Lorenzo Charles converts air ball to upset Hakeem Olajuwon and Houston

The 1983 National Championship game was played between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Houston Cougars. Now the Cougars were led by the flamboyant Hakeem Olajuwon and were fondly called the ‘Phi Slama Jama’ by fans and media. 

The Cougars were primed to win the championship that season, but North Carolina state spoiled the party in the dying seconds of the ultimate game. The score was tied at 52 and the Wolfpack had possession with just six seconds remaining in regulation.

That’s when their leading scorer for the season Dereck Whittenburg attempted a three-pointer from way out. It was an inaccurate attempt which was going to be an airball, but the late Lorenzo Charles instinctively lept up and converted it into a basket from the post. 

Charles made the basket just before the clock ended, which gave birth to one of the major upsets in NCAA Basketball history! 

3. Mario Chalmers sinks three-pointer to force championship game into OT

The Kansas Jayhawks won the 2008 National Title against Memphis Tigers 75-68 in overtime. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Jayhawks were under pressure as they were trailing Memphis by three points with just 10 seconds remaining in regulation time. 

Kansas desperately needed a three-pointer and that’s when Mario Chalmers stepped up. Chalmers came running from the wing to receive the ball from teammate Sherron Collins and launched a shot from deep that went into the basket elegantly. 

Memphis couldn’t respond in the two seconds they had and the game was forced into overtime. Kansas then went on to seal the Championship in OT and Chalmers was named the MVP.

2. Kris Jenkins makes the shot of his life

Villanova and North Carolina faced off in the 2016 National Championship in a game that went right down to the wire. The scores were tied at 74 after the Tar Heels made a crucial three-pointer in the dying seconds of regulation time. 

Now it was Villanova’s time to respond and respond they did. The Wildcats had four seconds to seal the win, and Kris Jenkins made a three-pointer from way beyond the arc that sealed Villanova’s second National Championship back in 2016. 

The shot holds so much significance and will always remain an iconic moment in NCAA Basketball history.

1. ‘The Shot’

College basketball fans need very little detail about the shot.’ However, there are a few other moments that have been given a similar name, but Christian Laettner’s epic basket during the 1992 East Region Finals between Duke and Kentucky will always remain the authentic one. 


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Duke was trailing Kentucky by one point with 2.1 seconds remaining on the shot-clock. It was double overtime and the pressure was reeling. The Blue Devils had to inbound the ball from their end and make a basket within the blink of an eye to seal the victory. 

That’s exactly what happened. Grant Hill threw a terrific inbound pass from his end to Christian Laettner, who was waiting on the foul line. Laettner received the perfect pass, faked once, and then converted a fadeaway jumper which handed Mike Krzyzewski‘s Duke an emphatic victory. 


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The arena went bonkers and millions of people watched ‘the shot’ on their televisions. Duke progressed to the Final Four due to Laettner’s game-winner and eventually went on to win the National Championship that year. 


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Arjun Athreya

2141 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.