‘One Shining Moment,’ explained: How March Madness song became the anthem for college basketball


With the conclusion of March Madness comes one of the most iconic traditions in sports.

When a champion is crowned at the end of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, it doesn’t feel official until their highlights are accompanied by “One Shining Moment,” a song that has become synonymous with March Madness.

The song, which is played to close the broadcast of the National Championship game, has been a tradition for over 30 years as it is paired with a video montage that shows what makes this such a special time of year.

Here’s how the song became the anthem of college basketball.

Who created One Shining Moment?

“One Shining Moment” was written by David Barrett, a singer-songwriter from Ann Arbor, Mich. Barrett wrote the song in March of 1986.

Why do they play One Shining Moment for March Madness?

It’s a tradition that dates back 35 years but almost didn’t come to be.

After writing the song, Barrett recorded a demo of “One Shining Moment” and sent the tape to a friend that worked at Sports Illustrated. Barrett’s friend then brought the demo to CBS, where an executive from CBS Sports fell in love with the song and received Barrett’s clearance to play it at the conclusion of Super Bowl 21 in 1987.

As Super Bowl 21 ran over airtime, the song was not played, prompting CBS to again ask Barrett for clearance to play “One Shining Moment” at the conclusion of the 1987 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship Game.

The first-ever “One Shining Moment” montage featured highlights from the tournament and concluded with highlights of Indiana’s national championship win, resulting in overwhelmingly positive feedback.

From there, it became an annual tradition.

One Shining Moment lyrics

Here are the full lyrics to “One Shining Moment”:

The ball is tipped
And there you are
You’re running for your life
You’re a shooting star
And all the years
No one knows
Just how hard you worked
But now it shows…
In One Shining Moment, it’s all on the line
In One Shining Moment, they’re frozen in time

But time is short
And the road is long
In the blinking of an eye
That moment’s gone
And when it’s done
Win or lose
You always did your best
Cause inside you knew…
That in One Shining Moment, you reached deep inside
One Shining Moment, you knew you were alive

Feel the beat of your heart
Feel the wind in your face
It’s more than a contest
It’s more than a race…

And when it’s done
Win or lose
You always did your best
Cause inside you knew…
In One Shining Moment, you reached for the sky
In One Shining Moment, you knew…
In One Shining Moment, you were willing to try
In One Shining Moment, you knew
One Shining Moment

Who sings One Shining Moment?

While Barrett wrote and sang the original rendition of the song, a rendition recorded by Luther Vandross has been used more than any other and will again be used in 2022.

  • Luther Vandross: 2003-09, 2011-19, 2021-Present
  • Ne-Yo: 2016
  • Jennifer Hudson: 2010
  • David Barrett: 1987-1993, 2000-02
  • Teddy Pendergrass: 1994-99

2021 One Shining Moment video

The 2021 “One Shining Moment” video chronicles the 2021 NCAA Men’s March Madness, which took place entirely in the state of Indiana and culminated with Baylor winning its first-ever national title.

What is best One Shining Moment?

Of the 30-plus years of “One Shing Moment” videos, two stand out as the most impactful — the 1987 video which is the first-ever and the 2003 video, the first year that uses Vandross’ voice.

Coincidentally, both Final Fours took place in New Orleans and both National Championship Games involved Syracuse.

One Shining Moment (1987)

One Shining Moment (2003)