North Carolina NBA Players: Greatest of All Time

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North Carolina has produced some of the best basketball players of all time. Would you like to know who are North Carolina’s greatest NBA players? Are you a fan of the UNC Tar Heels? Most persons familiar with college basketball know that the University of North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball program has produced some great players who have played in the NBA. Some would even say the greatest of all-time.

This school is third all-time in NCAA tournament wins. They must have had great leadership, talents, and skills to pull that off. We would like to share some information about this excellent basketball program, it’s coaches, and it’s incredible players. We are going to review the UNC basketball program’s history for you today. 

A Brief History of UNC BasketballA Brief History of UNC Basketball

The North Carolina Tar Heels represents the University of North Carolina collegiate basketball. The Tar Heels are one of the most winningest schools in history. They have won 7 men’s basketball national championships, third-most of all time. They won in 1924, 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, and 2017.

The Tar Heels have also won 32 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season titles and 18 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles. The Tar Heels currently have the second-highest all-time winning percentage at .736. This comes from a win total to date of 2,275 games and losing 818 games. No other college team in history has more consecutive 20 win season than the UNC Tar Heels. They have 31 from 1970-2001.

On March 2nd, 2010, North Carolina became the second college basketball program to reach 2,000 wins in its history. In terms of all-time wins, they are 3rd behind Kentucky and Kansas.

The North Carolina Tar Heels played their first game on January 27th, 1911. In that game, they defeated Virginia Christian 42–21 at home. Back then, their home games were being played at the Bynum Gymnasium. The team’s first coach was Nat Cartmell. Unfortunately for Cartmell, he was fired after the 1913-14 season for playing illegal dice. He was replaced by Charles Doak.

The UNC Tar Heels joined the SAIAA in the 1914–15 season. They remained apart of the conference up to the 1920-21 season. The following season, the school joined the Southern Conference. The UNC Tar Heels remained in the Southern Conference for 32 seasons from 1921 to 1953. They managed to win a whopping 304 games from a total of 415 and won the Southern Conference regular-season title 9 times and 8 Southern Conference Tournament titles. They got a new home arena In 1924. The Tin Can. They played home games in The Tin Can from 1924-1938.

In an undefeated run in 1923-24 of 26–0, the team won a national championship, their first.

The Woollen Gymnasium was used as the Tar Heels home from 1939. They played there up to 1965. where they would play until 1965. Their first NCAA Tournament win came on March 21st, 1946, against NYU. They advanced to the Final four in 1946 as well, but lost to Oklahoma A&M in the championship game.

A Brief History of UNC Basketball

The Tar Heels left the Southern Conference in 1953 to become one of the first teams to make the Atlantic Coast Conference. In their first ACC game ever, the UNC Tar Heels defeated South Carolina 82-56.ACC game ever. Led by Lennie Rosenbluth’s 31 points, the Tar Heels defeated Duke 73-65 on February 24th, 1956, for their first ACC regular-season title.

The following season, the team had a perfect 24-0 regular-season record, and Lennie Rosenbluth was named 1957 Helms Foundation Player of the Year. In1957, the Tar Heels also won their first ACC Tournament and first NCAA Championship.

In 1960, they were placed on NCAA probation and were barred from the 1961 NCAA tournament. The team then withdrew from the 1961 ACC Tournament. Coach McGuire was forced to resign. Dean Smith was selected as McGuire’s replacement.

Unfortunately, Smith’s first five teams were never able to win more than 16 games. Needless to say, eventually, Smith managed to turn this around dramatically.

The team moved its home games to Carmichael Auditorium in 1965. This was the same year that Bobby Lewis scored 49 points in a win over Florida State. That number is significant because it is the current Tar Heels record. Dean Smith’s first NCAA Tournament win came on March 17th, 1967, when the team defeated Princeton. They went on to the Final Four, where they would lose to Dayton in the semifinal.

UNC defeated Georgia Tech in 1971 to win the NIT on March 27th. Bill Chamberlain scored 34 points in that game. On March 29th, 1982, North Carolina won their second NCAA championship. James Worthy scored 28 points, and Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot to defeat Georgetown.

On January 18th, 1986, the team played its first game at the Dean Smith Center. They defeated Duke 95-92.
The team won its third title in 1993, on April 5th by defeating Michigan 77-71. That was Dean Smith’s second NCAA championship. Smith would coach his final game on March 29th, 1997. He retired on October 9th, 1997, after coaching for 36 years. With Smith at the helm, the team won 17 ACC regular-season titles and 13 ACC Tournaments. The team also won two NCAA tournament titles (1982 and 1993) under Smith’s leadership.

Bill Guthridge succeeded Smith but only coached for three seasons. The team went to the Final Four twice in his three seasons. Matt Doherty took up the mantle as the team’s head coach. Matt Doherty was replaced shortly as head coach by Roy Williams. Roy Williams had an illustrious career at Kansas before returning to UNC.

The UNC Tar Heels won their fourth NCAA title and Williams’ first in 2005. Their fifth came four years after in 2009 by defeating Michigan State. 

UNC was the fastest team to reach 2000 wins in College basketball. This happened in the 2009-2010 season. Miami was the casualty in this victory. Three years after, in the 2013-14 season, the Tar Heels became the only team to defeat every team ranked in the top 4 in the preseason.

The team defeated Gonzaga in 2017 to give Williams his 3rd national championship and the team’s 6th.

What Famous Basketball Players Hail from North CarolinaWhat Famous Basketball Players Hail from North Carolina?

What Famous Basketball Players Hail from North Carolina

There are currently many famous UNC players in the NBA and a lot more that played before. There are quite a number of all the seamers as well. We will now take a look at some of the famous players that are playing or have played in the NBA. 

Rasheed Wallace

Rasheed Wallace played three years at UNC before moving on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1993-1995, he was named to the First Team All-ACC before declaring for the 1995 NBA draft. He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 4th in the first round by the Pistons.
During his 16 years in the NBA, he was a 4-time NBA All-Star and an NBA champion in 2004.

Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham played three years at UNC  before moving on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1962-1965, he was a First-Team All-American in 1964. He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 5th in the first round by the 76ers. He returned to coach the 76ers from 1977-1985. 

Walter Davis

Walter Davis spent four years at UNC and then went on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1973-1977, he was named to the ACC First-Team in 1977Walter Davis went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 5th in the first round by the Suns. He was a 6-time NBA All-Star.

Bob McAdoo

Bob McAdoo played one year at UNC before moving on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1971-72, he was named to the Consensus All-American first-team. He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 2nd overall by the Buffalo Braves. During his long NBA career, he averaged 22PTS and 9RPG. He won 2 NBA championships with the Showtime Lakers.

Jerry Stackhouse

Jerry Stackhouse spent two years at UNC and then went on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1993-1995, he was named the ACC tournament MVP in 1994. He went on to the NBA, where the 76ers drafted him 3rd in the first round. During his 18 years in the NBA, he was a 2-time NBA All-Star that averaged 16PTS, 3RB, and 3AST.

Vince Carter

Vince Carter played three years at UNC before moving on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1995-1998, he was First-team All-ACC in 1998. He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 5th overall by the Warriors but traded to the Raptors for fellow Tar Heel, Antawn Jamison. During his 22 years of playing professionally, he was an 8-time all-star and NBA Rookie of the year in 1999.

James Worthy

James Worthy spent three seasons at UNC and then went on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1979-82, he was the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding player in 1982 and an NCAA champion.

He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 1st in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers. During his 12 years in the NBA, he was a 7- time NBA All-Star and 3-time NBA Champion. For his career, he averaged 17PTS, 5RB, and 3AST.

famous players that are playing or have played in the NBA
Brad Daugherty

Brad Daugherty spent four seasons with UNC and then went on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1982-1986, he was named to the ACC First-team twice, in 1985 and 1986. Daugherty went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 1st overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. During his 8 years in the NBA, he was a 5-time All-Star that averaged 19PPG, 9RPG, and 4APG.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan played three seasons at UNC before moving on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1981-1984, he helped the team to win an NCAA Championship in 1982. He was also the ACC Rookie of the year in 1982.

He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 3rd overall by the Bulls. Most people said the best player to have ever played the game. During his 14 seasons in the NBA, he was a 6-time NBA Champion that averaged 30PTS, 6RB, and 5AST.

Antawn Jamison

Antawn Jamison played three seasons at UNC before moving on to the NBA. While he was at UNC in 1995-1998, he was the ACC Tournament MVP and player of the year in 1998. He went on to the NBA, where he was the 4th overall pick by the Raptors. He was a 2-time NBA all-star.

Kenny Smith

Kenny “The Jet” Smith spent four years at UNC and then went on to play for the Sacramento Kings after they drafted him 6th after all. While he was at UNC in 1983-1987, he helped the team to 3 NCAA championships. His entrance into the NBA was made as a 1st overall pick by the Sacramento. During his 10 years in the NBA, he averaged 12PTS, 2RB, and 5AST. He was a 2-time NBA Champion.

How Many UNC Tar Heels Players are in the NBA List of Current NBA Players from UNCHow Many UNC Tar Heels Players are in the NBA? List of Current NBA Players from UNC

Let’s review the current NBA players from North Carolina.

Cameron Johnson

After he was drafted 11th overall by the Timberwolves in 2019, and then traded to the Phoenix Suns for Jarrett Culver. He is averaging 8 points and 2 rebounds per game this season. 

Theo Pinson

Theo Pinson is currently with the New York Knicks. He went undrafted after declaring for the draft in 2018. He was then signed to the Nets 2018 and picked up by the Knicks on June 26th, 2020.

Nassir Little

After he was drafted 25th overall by the Trail Blazers in 2019, Little is steadily carving out some playing time with the team even though he is only averaging 3 points per game.

Tony Bradley

Tony Bradley was traded to the Utah Jazz after he was drafted 28th by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017. He has since spent most of his time in the G-League. Hopefully, he will get more NBA opportunities next season.

Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson plays with the Dallas Mavericks. In the 2017 draft, he was drafted 15th in the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers but then traded to the Kings. In 2019, Jackson was traded to the Mavericks for Harrison Barnes. 

Coby White

After he was drafted 7th overall by the Bulls in 2019, White has been one of the best Rookies this year. He is Averaging 13PPG, 3RPG, and 2APG. 

Reggie Bullock

Reggie Bullock has been a reasonably good rotation player since he was drafted. He has since played for five NBA teams, but he is now with the knicks. 

How Many UNC Tar Heels Players are in the NBA List of Current NBA Players from UNC

Harrison Barnes

After he was drafted 7th overall by the warriors in 2012, Barnes won an NBA championship with them. He is now a core member of the Kings.

John Henson

Henson was drafted 14th in the first round by the Bucks. He brought his sound defense with him to the NBA. He has been a solid big for the Bucks averaging 7PPG and 5 RBS.

Tyler Zeller

In 2017, Zeller was drafted 17th by the Mavericks. He is currently signed to the San Antonio Spurs.

Ed Davis

Ed Davis has been a fairly good rotation player since he was drafted. He is currently coming off the bench in Utah.

Wayne Ellington

After he was drafted 5th overall by the Grizzlies in 2008, Love has played for two NBA teams. He won an NBA championship with the Cavs in 2016.

Danny Green

Danny is currently with the Lakers. He has won 2 NBA championships so far.

Marvin Williams

Marvin has played for four teams since being drafted in 2005. He plays with the Bucks now.

The 5 Greatest UNC Tar Heels NBA Players of All TimeThe 5 Greatest UNC Tar Heels NBA Players of All Time

This list was not at all easy to create. So many greats to choose from. Here are the best North Carolina basketball players of all time.

James Worthy
James was a 3-time NBA champion and a Finals MVP. 

Billy Cunningham
Billy won a championship in 1967. He was also a 4-time All-Star.

Brad Daugherty
This 6-time NBA All-Star was inducted into the Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. 

Michael Jordan
His Airness is regarded by many as the best to have ever played the game. He won 6 championships in the NBA. 

Bob McAdoo
Bob is arguably the best big to come from the UNC stable. This Hall of Famer won 2 NBA championships in his career.

Wrapping Things Up: North Carolina NBA Players

The UNC Tar Heels have a rich history, and their pride is well justified because of this. This basketball program is nothing short of remarkable. Past NBA players from UNC represented. They showed up and showed out. The current young NBA players that come from UNC are developing quickly and flourishing for the most part in the league.

Did you find this article helpful? Then you may also like to read other frequently asked questions on basketball here.

> Kansas NBA Players: Greatest of All Time

> Kentucky NBA Players: Greatest of All Time

> Duke NBA Players: Greatest of All Time

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