UNC Basketball at 100: The 10 Best Players Ever
The University of North Carolina is celebrating 100 years of basketball history this season. This is the first of a series of articles reflecting on the great players, coaches, and games during that time.
As one of the most dominant teams in NCAA history, the Tar Heels have been able to recruit some of the hottest prospects from across the country, making this list extremely difficult to put together.
With nine alumni in the Naismith Hall of Fame, 28 first-round draft picks, and 17 former players sharing 40 NBA Championship Rings, the list is bound to cause debate—perhaps as much for those left off it as the order of the 10 included.
10. Charlie Scott
Points per game: 22.1
Rebounds per game: 7.1
Two-time NCAA All-American
The first black recruit at Chapel Hill, Scott's career was always over-shadowed by bigotry, intolerance, and racism. Despite leading his team to three ACC titles and two Final Fours, he never received any individual recognition.
The Civil Rights Act may have been signed before he arrived at UNC, but despite clearly being the best player in the conference his last two seasons, no awards came his way.
The University did recognize his remarkable contribution to their history and his No. 33 jersey hangs retired in his honor.
9. Ed Cota
Points per Game: 9.1
Assists per Game: 7.5
ACC rookie of the Year, UNC all-time assists leader, third-most assists in NCAA history
A great college player who never made it as a pro, he holds the record for most games in a career without fouling out (138). Cota is also the only player in NCAA history to record 1,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 500 rebounds.
Held in great esteem by those who bleed Carolina blue, Cota continued a great tradition of point guards at UNC. But his lack of both height and an outside shot made it obvious his skills would not transfer to the pro game.
8. Sam Perkins
Points per game: 15.9
Rebounds per game: 8.6
Sam Perkins was always the forgotten man at North Carolina, as he played alongside legends James Worthy and Michael Jordan. Despite this, he still managed to out-do both of them in the UNC record books.
Perkins amassed 2,145 points, which puts him third all-time at North Carolina. He also snared 1,167 career rebounds, which was the UNC record until Tyler Hansbrough broke the mark in 2009.
He was also captain of the Gold Medal-winning Olympic Team of 1984.
7. George Glamack
Points per game: 17.0
Two-time All-American, National Player of the Year 1940 and 1941
Glamack was nicknamed the “Blind Bomber” because of his poor eyesight, which meant he allegedly made shots based on the lines of the floor.
His No. 20 jersey is one of only eight to be retired by North Carolina. He scored 45 points against Clemson in 1941, which still ranks as the fourth-highest single game total in UNC history.
That same year, he took UNC to a Southern Conference Championship and a first ever berth at the NCAA tournament.
6. Antawn Jamison
Points per game: 19.0
Rebounds per game: 9.9
National Player of The Year, ACC Player of the Year
Jamison played for only three seasons, but left an indelible mark at Chapel Hill as part of one of the most talented Tar Heel squads ever put together. That team featured Vince Carter, Brendan Haywood, Shammond Williams, Orlando Melendez, Ed Cota, and Jamison.
They went all the way to the Final Four in his junior year, losing only four games along the way. He was outstanding that season, a remarkable feat given that it came in the season following the retirement of Dean Smith. He was awarded both the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
Jamison's No. 33 was retired in 2000.
5. Lennie Rosenbluth
Points per game: 26.9
Rebounds per game: 10.4
National Player of the Year, two-time All-American
Rosenbluth brought perfection to North Carolina for the first time in 32 years and it has not been repeated since. In 1957, he led the team to a 32-0 record. Not satisfied there, he topped it by going head-to-head with Wilt Chamberlain in a triple-overtime title victory against Kansas and coming out on top.
He put up 2,045 total points in his four seasons and no other UNC player has maintained a scoring average as high. He scored over 40 points five times, another UNC record.
4. Tyler Hansbrough
Points per game: 20.2
Rebounds per game: 8.6
National Player of the Year, four-time All-American
Four national champions left UNC the summer before Hansbrough arrived in 2005. Normally that would mean a transition period for a team and a struggle for those that followed. No. 50 tore up that idea from the start, and made himself North Carolina basketball's all-time leading scorer.
He holds the NCAA record for made free-throws and holds 41 school records, including most points and most rebounds.
He led the Tar Heels to the 2009 National Championship, and became the eighth and last player to have their number retired at UNC.
3. Michael Jordan
Points per game: 17.7
Rebounds per game: 5.0
ACC Rookie of the Year, National Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year
Before the shoes, the rings, the cigars, the golf, and the greatest of all-times, there was Mike Jordan and "the shot." It's where a legend began, and where he learned the skills that enabled the rest to follow.
That game and National Championship winning shot against Georgetown and Patrick Ewing in 1982 probably went some way towards sealing the destiny of the two men for the next 20 years. Ewing was forced to live as runner-up to Jordan's heroics his entire career.
He also won the 1984 Olympic Gold, and had his iconic No. 23 retired to the rafters of the Dean Dome.
2. James Worthy
Points per game: 14.5
Rebounds per game: 7.4
National Player of the Year, NCAA tournament MOP
Michael Jordan became the greatest ever, but at North Carolina James Worthy was simply better.
Worthy captained that 1982 team brilliantly, leading from the front and losing only twice on their way to a national title. It was in the same game that MJ hit that shot that Worthy earned his reputation too.
His performance ranks among the best showings in UNC history, and made him "Big Game James" for the rest of his career. He went an amazing 13-of-17 from the field and racked up 28 points—the most ever by a Tar Heel in a championship game.
1. Phil Ford
Points per game: 18.6
Assists per game: 6.1
UNC’s second-leading scorer all-time, three-time All-American, National Player of the Year
Dribbling slowly up-court, four fingers raised—it's the image of Phil Ford, and probably of UNC Basketball. The four corner offense was in place before he arrived, but it was never run better than by Ford. Look again at his stats, and remember he achieved those in the days before the shot clock was used.
In addition to his amazing handling skills, he finished his career at Carolina as the all-time leading scorer and remained so until Hansbrough broke the record some 30 years later.
He also won Olympic Gold in 1976 and his No. 12 jersey was retired in honor of the best player to ever wear Carolina blue.