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.
This was the last NCAA Tournament to grant automatic bids to the winners of ECAC regional tournaments for Northeastern Division I independents organized by the Eastern College Athletic Conference, a loose sports federation of Northeastern colleges and universities. The practice had begun with the 1975 tournament to ensure that Northeastern independents would not be excluded, but was discontinued when all remaining Northeastern independents formed new conferences or joined existing ones after this season.
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, Floyd scored to put Georgetown on top, 62-61. During the ensuing timeout, Smith predicted that Georgetown would heavily guard Worthy and Perkins and drew up a play that would work the ball around to Jordan and then met Jordan's eyes and told him to not be afraid to shoot if he was open. When the ball was worked around, Jimmy Black found Jordan on the left wing, and he rose and hit a jumper 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, rather than Worthy or Perkins, is often regarded as a brilliant coaching move.
His Airness. MJ. Air Jordan. Before Michael Jordan was any of these things, before he was the most recognizable athlete in the world, he was Mike Jordan, the freshman for North Carolina. Then he hit a game-winning shot in the 1982 national championship game, and Mike became Michael Jordan, who became all of the above.
Powell Latimer in the Daily Tar Heel before Jordan's 2009 Hall of Fame induction
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 North Carolina's Jordan and Georgetown's 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 (but also a few goaltends on blocks that John Thompson supported for intimidation purposes). Jordan and Ewing would go on to have more memorable clashes in the National Basketball Association with the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks respectively, and both would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. For Jordan's part, his game-winner is often seen as the launching point of his career - the moment that gave him the confidence to become what many believe to be the greatest basketball player of all time, in no small part due to his clutch performance. Jordan has said multiple times that before he would take game-winning shots with the Bulls, he would sometimes think back to his shot in the 1982 game that propelled North Carolina past Georgetown.
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.