This tournament was the first to eliminate the national third place game, which had been held every year since the 1947 tournament. It was also the first tournament to be televised by CBS after it acquired the broadcasting rights from NBC. Gary Bender and Billy Packer (also from NBC Sports) called the Final Four and National Championship games.
The championship matchup was tightly contested throughout, with no team ever leading by more than a few points, and 15 lead changes in the game overall. With slightly over a minute to go, Sleepy Floyd scored to put Georgetown on top, 62-61. After a timeout, and with both James Worthy and Sam Perkins heavily guarded, Carolina worked the ball to its young freshman guard, Michael Jordan, who hit a jumper from the left wing with 17 seconds to go to put Carolina back on top, 63-62. Georgetown did not call timeout but immediately pushed the ball up the court. However, guard Fred Brown mistook Carolina's James Worthy for a teammate and passed the ball right to his opponent. Worthy was fouled with 2 seconds to go. He missed both free throws, but with no timeouts left (Georgetown coach John Thompson, in a questionable move, used his last one before Worthy's free throws rather than save it to set up a final play) the Hoyas' last desperation shot fell short. On the other hand, Dean Smith's decision to draw up a play for Jordan and not Worthy or Perkins is often regarding as a brilliant coaching move.
Aside from the dramatic finish in the final minute, the 1982 NCAA championship game is today primarily remembered as being the stage on which several eventual basketball legends were introduced to a national audience, particularly Michael Jordan of North Carolina and Georgetown's Patrick Ewing, both 19-year-old freshmen at the time of this game. Both had outstanding games, Jordan with 16 points including the game-winner, and Ewing with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan and Ewing went on to Hall of Fame careers in the National Basketball Association. In fact, the game-winning shot is often seen as the launching point of Michael Jordan's career, and as the moment that gave Jordan the confidence to become what many believe to be the greatest basketball player of all time.
The real star of the 1982 title game, and a third player in this game who would eventually be inducted to the pro basketball Hall of Fame, was Carolina's James Worthy. Worthy scored a game-high 28 points, showing the blazing speed and some of the same authoritative drives to the basket that later became familiar sights during his career with the powerful Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. Beyond these three legendary players, two other outstanding pro players of the 1980s and early 90s appeared in this 1982 game: Georgetown's Sleepy Floyd, who went on to an All-Star career in the NBA (including a still-standing record for most points in a quarter and in a half for a playoff game) and Carolina's Sam Perkins, who distinguished himself over a durable NBA career lasting 17 seasons.