Who are the most famous NBA players from North Carolina at Chapel?
The University of North Carolina has been a breeding ground for NBA talent for generations, including Chapel Hill’s most famous alumnus, Michael Jordan.
Few programs in college basketball have a longer and more prestigious legacy than the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels have won six national titles and have made it to a record twenty-one NCAA Tournament Final Fours.
Throughout the history of the program there have been some legendary players that not only made their name in Chapel Hill, but have gone on to have long and successful careers in the NBA.
The first Tar Heel on the list needs no introduction. Michael Jeffrey Jordan out of Wilmington, North Carolina had a four-year career with UNC, in which he cemented one of the most impressive eras at the university. He won the National Championship in 1982, was a two-time All-American in the two seasons after, and was named the Player of the Year in 1984.
After averaging 17.7 points a game over his college career, he was drafted third overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 draft. Jordan would go on to win six NBA titles, six Finals MVP awards, five league MVP’s and became arguably the greatest NBA player ever. Over the course of his career he averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
Vince Carter’s NBA career was as impressive for his high flying aerial acrobatics as it was for its longevity. After three years at the University of North Carolina, Carter was drafted by the Toronto Raptors.
Before being selected by the Canadian franchise, he went to two Final Fours in college and averaged 12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. He made an immediate impact with the Raptors, being named the Rookie of the Year in 1999. He made eight All-Star games in his 22-season career that spanned over four decades.
Carter averaged 16.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in the NBA, and while he took a hit in the final years of his illustrious tenure in the league, “VInceanity” will always be remembered for his dunks, especially in the 2000 Dunk Contest.
Believe it or not, the best player on North Carolina’s 1982 Championship team wasn’t Michael Jordan, it was James Worthy. Worthy was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player that year after posting 28 points in the title game against Georgetown.
After averaging 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in his college career, he was taken number one overall in the subsequent NBA Draft, going to the Los Angeles Lakers where he would spend his entire professional career. Worthy won three NBA Titles with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in LA, and was named the Finals MVP in 1988. He finished his career as a seven time All-Star and averaged 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in his 12-year career.
For all the youngsters out there who know Kenny Smith as the guy who comes on the halftime and post-game shows on TNT with Charles Barkley and Shaq, you have to know that Kenny could hoop.
Smith averaged 12.9 points and six assists a game at Chapel Hill and was named a first team All-American in his senior year. The Sacramento Kings came knocking in the NBA Draft when they took him sixth overall.
The Jet had a fantastic three years with the Kings, went briefly to Atlanta and then made Houston his home where he and Hakeem Olajuwon would win back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
We would be remiss to leave Tyler Hansbrough off this list. While his NBA career most likely won’t get him to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, his college era was unlike any other ever seen at North Carolina, in the ACC, and really, in the history of college basketball. Smith ended his career with the Denver Nuggets in 1996 with an average of 12.8 points and 5.5 assists in the NBA.
In four seasons at Chapel Hill, the big man averaged 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds and became the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all time leading scorer (2,872 points) and the University’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,219. He was a three-time first team All-American, and was named the National Player of the Year in 2008. He made two Final Fours, and won the National Title in 2009 while going 124-22 in his career.
He had an efficient career in the NBA, averaging 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds a game in his seven years in the league, but had a hard time replicating the success he had in college.