…. Because Legends, like Dragons, Will Live Forever
Puff The Magic Dragon lamented – “Dragons live forever, but not so little boys….”. Replace Dragon with “Legend” and the same will apply to former NC State Basketballer – Charles “Mr. Amphibious” Shackleford.
Charles Shackleford, age 50, was found dead on Friday AM in his hometown of Kinston. Cause of Death – Cirrhosis. Shackleford had a long history of involvement with drugs and related nefarious activities.
It could be argued that no single individual and certainly no single word – “Amphibious” – is so forever cemented into Tobacco Road sports rivalry “lore” than is Charles Shackleford and the word “Amphibious”.
An innocent malapropism that Charles Shackleford may, or may not, have uttered in 1987 when describing his ability to shoot with either hand – i.e. “ambidextrous”.
Whether “Shack” said it or whether his coach Jim Valvano “said he said it” has long been debated. For sure malaproping (?) the words “amphibious” and “ambidextrous” did NOT originate in 1987. I credit Wake Forest’s legendary “Peahead” Walker with coming up with the line. I credit “Peahead” with 95% of all such one-liners.
There are over a dozen permutations of whether “Shack said it” or not and each version is backed by scores of “I was there when….” eye witnesses. Irrelevant. For certain Jimmy V “said he said it” as part of “V’s” standard rubber chicken stump speech to Wolfpackers and other sports banquet audiences.
The companion “Shack story” involved a long plane ride home from a holiday tournament in Hawaii and Shack falling asleep with his head propped on his wrist… and subsequently spraining his wrist when startled awake.
That “V” promoted Shack’s “not all that smart-ness” ended up being a key element in what brought The Valvano Era to such an inglorious conclusion.
A bit more historical background…. Charles Shackleford played high school basketball in Kinston for “my coach” – the legendary Paul Jones. At one time “Coach Jones” was the winningest BB coach in NC High School history. Coach Jones had 25 years of experience prior to coaching “Shack” including two state championships and several runner-ups. Why Paul Jones never moved up to coaching college BB is linked in part to the recruiting of Charles Shackleford in 1985.
At 6’10” and “amphibious”, Shack was highly recruited. It is not intended as any indictment of Jimmy V that he (“V”) somehow got Shack admitted to NC State. On numerous occasions over the years, “Coach” would laughingly recall that Charles Shackleford “getting admitted to any college” told him all he needed to know about the hypocrisy of college sports. He would then recount assorted “Shack said …. Shack did ….” stories.
At NC State, “Shack” would be forever linked with Chris Washburn. Or as rival fans would call him “475” for his (Washburn) fabled low SAT score. Washburn apologists have longed argued that UNC’s Kevin Madden’s SAT score was equally “remarkably low”. … and that Dean Smith had aggressively recruited Washburn.
However unremarkable “475” and “Amphibious” may have been academically, their combined presence on Valvano’s roster became very very heavy straws that broke the camel’s back of Jimmy V….
“consistently recruiting young men not academically suitable for North Carolina State University”.
THAT malfeasance, and not “a pair of sneakers” and “a few tickets”, is why Jim Valvano was ultimately terminated as BBHC and Athletics Director at NC State.
Before Washburn & Shack there had been Lo & Co – Lorenzo Charles and Cozell McQueen. I can never remember if it was Lo or Co that “supposedly” said – “I came to NC State because, growing up in South Carolina, I always wanted to go to school in the North”. OUCH. That line also became a staple in “V’s” quiver of banquet zingers. He “had a million of’em”.
While V’s audiences roared with laughter at his player-effacing anecdotes, they began to wear on the more image-conscious members of the NC State University community.
Why was Jim Valvano promoting his own players’ so dumb that …. Whether the anecdotes were real or exaggerated. We’ll never know ….
If V’s own words about his own players had been tempered, or not recounted at all, might he have survived His Inquisition?
In V’s own words – They gave me a lifetime contract, then told me I was dead. Did V’s own words about his players actually come back to do him in?
During The Inquisition…. Former head of the NC physical education department, Richard Lauffer, described him (Shackleford) as a poor student, without “any interest in trying to get an education” and who “should never have been in school.
It must be noted that shortly after the Washburn / Shack Era at NCSU, the Grand AfAm Eligibility Scam @ UNCCH began, so we are told, in the early 1990s. Unlike V, Dean Smith was forever touting his players’ academic proficiencies and successes. To whatever degree such touts were justified, it was certainly what Franklin Street Faithful LOVED to hear…. as they repeated “amphibious… amphibious… amphibious” to their NCSU aquainti over a bazillion times over 30 years.
That one word, attributed to Charles Shackleford, came to symbolize the supposed “lack of integrity” of NC State athletics while simultaneously elevating UNCCH athletics.
Arguably, no single word, has spontaneously generated more gastric reflux among NC State alumni and fans over the past 30 years than “amphibious”.
“Shack” left NCSU in 1988 under a cloud of suspicion over possible involvement in point shaving. He had a total of six years in the NBA and a dozen more years with various European teams. Rebounding proficiency was always his forte.
At some point “Shack” got involved with drugs and all its nefariousness. Over the past 20 years he was “picked up” on various occasions for drug-related activities. Every new incident, of course, meant a renewal of “AMPHIBIOUS” taunts aimed at NCSU fans.
I never met him. Other than Coach Jones’ comments I only know “The Charles Shackleford of Legend” that most all of you know. How much of “it” an individual believes is likely tied to one’s sports allegiance.
Did he “love his momma”? … Did he spend time with kids to warn them not to follow his Life track? …Did he “love the Baby Jesus”? …Is this world a better place because Charles Shackleford walked upon for 50 years? …. I am not qualified to even suggest an answer to any of those questions. I DO know that:
The Legend of Mr Amphibious did NOT die early Friday morning in Kinston because….
Legends, like Dragons, Live Forever!