Top Three Sports Moments from the GRSA Era
Thursday, October 19, 2023, 5pm by D. Scott Dupree
My first instinct was to compile a list of my top 25 sports moments during the GRSA era.
The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, of course, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
In that quarter of a century a lot, and I mean an uppercase, boldfaced and underlined A LOT, of amazing events have taken place in all corners of Wake County.
But since my mind is cluttered with countless memories and the events tend to run together, I’ve decided to do some hardcore cutting.
Here, then, are my top three sports moments during the GRSA era:
3. 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend
This was the moment when Raleigh was recognized as a great hockey market. Of course, by 2011, the Canes had already won a Stanley Cup and hosted two finals. But plenty of skepticism of Raleigh, N.C., as a major league sports city remained, especially among national observers and Canadian media. All of that changed forever on a spectacular weekend in late January.
Massive crowds poured into downtown streets for the All-Star Wide Open and into the convention center for NHL FanFest. Attention then turned to what was known at the time as the RBC Center, which became the center of the hockey universe and was sold out for both the skills competition on Saturday night and the All-Star Game on Sunday. When it was over NHL officials, visiting NHL clubs and national media members spent the ensuing weeks gushing over Raleigh with many long-time observers proclaiming it the best All-Star weekend ever. Raleigh had arrived.
2. 2023 NHL Stadium Series™
This one is fresh in my memory. The NHL Stadium Series in February stands alone as the greatest sports “spectacle” I’ve ever witnessed in Raleigh, and maybe anywhere else for that matter. It was indeed a spectacular and unforgettable night, one that somehow managed to live up to and even surpass the hype. And that’s saying something because it will go down as perhaps the most anticipated sporting event in Raleigh’s history. The build-up, starting about a year out, was unprecedented. The game set NHL records for fastest sellout of an outdoor game, merchandise sales and social media engagement. And oh by the way, the Canes capped off a perfect night under the stars by defeating the Capitals, 4-1, in Carter-Finley Stadium.
1. NCAA Basketball Tournament (2008)
One of the NBA’s all-time greats was largely unknown when his team rolled into Raleigh for the NCAA tournament in March 2008. But by the time the Davidson Wildcats left town a few days later, Steph Curry had become a national sensation. He’s been a superstar and an A-list celebrity ever since, and it all started here in what is now known as PNC Arena. In the span of three days, little Davidson College captivated America by upsetting No. 7 seed Gonzaga and then shocking No. 2 seed Georgetown. Curry scored 40 vs. Gonzaga (including 30 in the second half!), and then scored 25 of his game-high 30 in the second half as the Wildcats staged a furious rally from 17 down to stun the powerful Hoyas. I’ll never forget the electricity in the building during Davidson’s rally, as David took down Goliath and a baby-faced assassin named Stephen rained threes and became a household name. In the 15 years since, a documentary has been done on Curry and Davidson’s miraculous run that March, and numerous newspaper and magazine articles have been written about that weekend in Raleigh.
What are your top three sports memories in Greater Raleigh over the last 25 years? Send us a note and let us know!
Photo credits: Getty Images, Garrett Poulos, Bryan Regan, Sabrina Short.
Author: D. Scott Dupree
D. Scott Dupree is executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance. He currently serves as chair of the North Carolina Sports Leadership Council. In 2018 Dupree was named the most influential sports person in the Triangle by The News & Observer and, in 2014, CVB and Sports Commission Professional of the Year by Connect Sports.