Is “One Shining Moment” The Greatest Sporting Event Song?


One Shining Moment

Is “One Shining Moment” The Greatest Sporting Event Song? | Sports Takes & News |

For the 34th time, “One Shining Moment” was played Monday night by CBS in tribute to the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball tournament. The song, often using the golden voice of the late Luther Vandross, is one of the stars of every tournament, connecting generations of college basketball players who have been shown in the highlight reel having their “One Shining Moment.” As I read a little bit about the song’s history, I wondered is there a song more connected to a sporting event than “One Shining Moment”? 

Under the category of a “happy accident” lands “One Shining Moment,” a song not originally written for “March Madness,” but for Super Bowl XXI between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos. That Super Bowl, won by New York 39-20, gave birth to two traditions, the Gatorade bath for the winning coach, and the game’s MVP saying, “I’m Going to Disneyworld!” As fate would have it, the song was never used in January 1987, and instead made its debut just over two months later after a game between Syracuse and Indiana; a game that saw Keith Smart drop a jumper to give the Hoosiers a national title.

To put that night in historical context, Jim Boeheim was facing off against Bobby Knight in that game. Brett Musburger and Billy Packer was working the game for CBS. Derrick Coleman missed a foul shot that would have given Syracuse a two-point, not a one-point lead before Smart’s famous shot, and this was the first time the three-point shot was used in a national title game. 

Yes, “One Shining Moment” is as old as the college basketball three-point line.

There are plenty of “sports anthems” that fans hear at games or have had on CD for years; those songs that guarantee everyone will start clapping and cheering for their favorite team. For my money, however, hearing the song written by David Barrett on a bar napkin is more connected to March Madness than the phrase itself.

Perhaps it is just my age … I was in high school in 1987 and knew how good of a coach Bobby Knight was, or perhaps it is just because the song’s three-word title is more fitting to the event than March Madness is. Either way, “One Shining Moment” marked the end of what is normally a special event, the tournament, but also somehow connects what happened this year to all the other tournaments, which is what makes sports so special.

If you think I’m crazy, just pull up one of the highlight reels from any of the tournaments CBS has used this song for, then you will understand how joy and heartbreak have look the same in the eyes and on the faces of student-athletes for the generations. I would also defy you to find a song more connected to its sport that “One Shining Moment” is, that’s because there is also that one game, that one play, that one … moment … that makes history, both in sports and in life.  And this song, with its elegant lyrics, connects what Keith Smart did in 1987 to what everyone else since then has done. That’s the power of music and the power of sports, it is also the power of this song, along with the help of Luther Vandross, that makes “One Shining Moment” the best sports song ever.

(Footnote: When reading about this song’s history, I saw Luther Vandross’ estate receives royalties for the use of his voice with much of that money going to a scholarship program for students who attend historically Black colleges and universities, something else this song can be proud of.) 


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Is “One Shining Moment” The Greatest Sporting Event Song? |

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