“One Shining Moment” has been a staple of March Madness for almost 30 years, but it almost didn’t survive its first few seasons – and if not for one team in particular, it wouldn’t have.
“(The players) live for that moment,” CBS Sports play-by-play voice Jim Nantz said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I’ve seen that one vignette grow so much. I’m going to really date myself, but when it first aired, I led to it. I led to it for years. Years before I become the play-by-play voice of the championship, I was the host. We were in New Orleans in 1987, and this is just right after Keith Smart had hit the winning shot and we were going off the air. I had John Thompson and Dean Smith at that Final Four as my studio analysts. I led to this thing called ‘One Shining Moment’ for the first time, and I watched it go through the years with different artists recording it. I can tell you that in 1993, CBS was going to can it. It was going to get nixed. In fact, they really grappled with whether to run it or not on that Monday night. I told some of the executives at that time, ‘You better have it on standby because there will be a lot of people heartbroken (if we don’t play it). This thing’s caught fire.”
In 1993, moments after North Carolina beat Michigan 77-71, Nantz went on the floor to interview Smith and his players.
And that’s when it happened.
“All of a sudden, the North Carolina team around me is waiting for that moment,” Nantz said. “They’re all draped over us, singing ‘One Shining Moment.’ I said, ‘Guys, do you have something you want to say?’ They started singing it. At that point, they saved ‘One Shining Moment.’ Because (CBS) could never afford for a team to do that and then not get the payoff for it to play.”
Even crazier, “One Shining Moment,” written by David Barrett, originally wasn’t even about basketball. It was about a track meet. The first line wasn’t “The ball is tipped.” It was “The gun goes off.”
The man responsible for the basketball vision? That would be sports correspondent Armen Keteyian.
“Armen had heard about it and handed it off to our creative director, the late Doug Towey,” Nantz said. “He was a genius. Doug went and worked with Dave about making this a basketball theme song, and lo and behold, with Armen’s handoff and Doug’s magical touches and Dave Barrett’s gift in 1987, ‘One Shining Moment’ has become really a part of the fabric of the tournament.”