(Editor’s note: in honor of Final Four weekend coming, we are now re-publishing this exclusive that originally ran in 2014.)
When you watch the iconic “One Shining Moment” video montage a week from tonight, after the 2023 national title game, take a minute or two to think about how it nearly disappeared. If it weren’t for the combined efforts of broadcaster Jim Nantz and former UNC Tar Heel Pat Sullivan, the March Madness staple would have been cut entirely.
These days, you just can’t conclude the NCAA Tournament without it. It’s astonishing that CBS was once dangerously close to giving it the axe.
Then CBS Sports Creative Director, the late Doug Towey, first decided to use “One Shining Moment” as a way to close the network’s broadcast of the 1987 Tournament.
“Doug heard it and thought this could be our going off-the-air piece in the Final Four, and we’ve played it every year since,” Jim Nantz exclusively told The Sports Bank in 2014.
The One Shining Moment of that year is embedded below:
“I’ve led to it on a number of occasions, Greg Gumbel now leads to it and it brings closure to a three week festival. The building still has thousands of people lingering, standing still for those three minutes,” he continued.
In 1992, a Tar Heel state duo (Nantz was born in Charlotte) saved the emotionally inspiring montage from the cutting room floor.
“The sixth year it ran, it was going to be the last time we were going to run it. They thought it was getting stale already. And I said guys, I beg to differ,” Nantz continued.
“There’s a whole audience out there that waits to see that at the end- you can’t dispense with it. You can’t bring another one in.”
“In ’92 we already ran credits over One Shining Moment, so it was already bastardized, if you will, but as I was on the floor with Billy Packer and we were interviewing Dean Smith after the Championship win over Michigan.
I heard a kid from North Carolina, his name was Pat Sullivan, singing One Shining Moment over my shoulder as the players were all huddled around,” Jim Nantz explained.
While the broadcast was cut to commercial, Nantz asked Sullivan if he would sing a lyric or two, if he were to stick a microphone in front of him upon returning from commercial.
“Absolutely! Yeah Yeah Yeah,” Sullivan and his teammates exclaimed.
“Waiting for the cue, back in five and go. Here with Dean Smith and Billy Packer, congratulations on another national championship and all of a sudden he starts singing and as soon as Dean finished, I said hey, Pat Sullivan what is that you’re singing?” Nantz explained.
“One Shining Moment,” sang Sullivan.
The rest, as they say, is history. At that moment, Nantz and Sullivan saved One Shining Moment from the sword of Damacles, and forever made it a college hoops “tradition unlike any other.”
The celebrated version of the song performed by the late Luther Vandross will be shown as usual after the title game concludes tonight.
In 2016, NE-YO became the fifth artist to perform “One Shining Moment,” joining its composer David Barrett, Teddy Pendergrass, Jennifer Hudson and Vandross.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.