The North Carolina men’s basketball program has won six national championships — guided by legendary coaches like Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, and Roy Williams. It’s probably the stable of ultra-talented athletes that the school is best known for producing. Here are our 20 best players in Tar Heels history — listed in chronological order.
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Jack Cobb, Forward (1924-26)
The Tar Heel Times
Cobb was the first true basketball star at North Carolina. In 1924, he helped the Tar Heels to their first undefeated season. Cobb was part of three Southern Conference championship teams and was North Carolina’s first three-time All-American, and the national player of the year in 1926. According to Tar Heel Illustrated, Cobb averaged 15 points per game, and in 1923-24, totaled 353 points. He is one of eight North Carolina men’s basketball players to have their jerseys retired.
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George Glamack, Forward-Center (1939-41)
The 6-foot-5 Glamack was another Tar Heel to have his jersey retired by the school. Glamack was known as the “The Blind Bomber” because despite having poor eyesight, he was one of college basketball’s better shooters at the time. He was an All-American and the national player of the year in both 1940 and ’41, and his 45 points scored against Clemson on Feb. 10, 1941, are tied for fourth-most in a single game by any Tar Heels player.
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Lennie Rosenbluth, Forward (1955-57)
North Carolina won its first national title in 1957, and Rosenbluth was a major reason for the team’s success. The national player of the year that season, when he averaged 28.0 points (totaling a school single-season record 897 points) and 8.8 rebounds for coach Frank McGuire’s 32-0 Tar Heels. During his three seasons at North Carolina, Rosenbluth averaged a school-record 26.9 points, and his 2,047 total points rank fourth in school history. His 10.4 career rebounding average currently sits fourth in the annals of the Tar Heels’ basketball program. Rosenbluth’s No. 10 was retired by the school.
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Billy Cunningham, Forward (1962-65)
Before Cunningham found success in the NBA as both a player and coach, he put together one of the greatest careers in North Carolina history. While his 24.8 scoring average is second-best in school history, Cunningham is Carolina’s all-time leader with a 15.4 average rebounds per contest. His 1,062 career rebounds rank fourth in school history, and his 60 double-double games for points and rebounds are a program record.
Cunningham’s 48-point effort versus Tulane on Dec. 10, 1964, is the second-highest scoring game among all Tar Heels. The All-American and 1965 ACC Player of the Year is also responsible for five of the school’s six-highest single-game rebounding performances.
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Larry Miller, Forward (1966-68)
Allentown Morning Call
A two-time ACC Player of the Year, Miller ranks fifth in school history with a 21.8 scoring average. His 1,982 career points are seventh-most among all Tar Heels. The Allentown, Pa., native also made 19 free throws versus Oregon State on Dec. 30, 1967 — tied for third-most in a single game at North Carolina. In 2002, Miller was included as part of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary men’s basketball team.
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Charlie Scott, Guard (1968-70)
One of the best basketball players to come out of Harlem, Scott took that flare and style and put it to good use at North Carolina. During his four seasons as a Tar Heel, Scott was a three-time first-team All-ACC selection who ranks fourth in school history with 22.1 scoring average and sixth in points (2,007). His 43 against Wake Forest during the 1969-70 season are tied for eighth in school history. Scott also ranks in North Carolina’s top five in made field goals (805).
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Bob McAdoo, Forward (1971-72)
A Greensboro, N.C. native, McAdoo’s college career began at Vincennes (Ind.) University — a junior college at the time. He eventually found his way back to North Carolina and landed at Dean Smith’s program for his junior year — and only one at UNC. And what a season it turned out to be for McAdoo and the Tar Heels. The only junior-college player ever recruited by Smith, McAdoo averaged 19.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while helping North Carolina reach the Final Four. He earned both first-team All-ACC and All-American honors in ’72.
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Bobby Jones, Forward (1972-74)
A teammate of Bob McAdoo, Jones got the job done on both ends of the court. He averaged 13.7 points, and his 60.8 field goal percentage ranks fourth in school history. Jones also averaged 8.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists, and he was one of the toughest defenders in Tar Heels basketball history. A trait that Jones, a first-team All-ACC performer and second-team All-American, would take into the NBA, where he was known as one of the great defensive players of all time.
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Walter Davis, Guard (1974-77)
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Davis was nothing but consistent during his four seasons at North Carolina. With 1,863 career points, Davis ranks 10th on North Carolina’s all-time scoring list. He averaged 15.7 points, and his 106 games scoring in double figures rank fourth among all Tar Heels’ players. Davis, a first-team All-ACC selection in 1977, shot 53.1 percent from the field for his career. He never shot below 50 percent in any of his four seasons in Chapel Hill.
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Phil Ford, Guard (1975-78)
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As is the case with many on this list, Ford was not just among the best in the history of UNC basketball but in all of the college game to this day. Ford, whose No. 12 was rightfully retired by the school, ranks second among all Tar Heels with 2,290 career points. His 865 made field goals are the second-most in school history while his 753 assists are third. Ford averaged 18.6 points and shot 52.7 percent while dishing out 6.1 assists (fourth all-time at UNC) per game. In 1977-78, the two-time All-American was the ACC Player of the Year and honored with the Wooden Award.
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Al Wood, Guard-Forward (1978-81)
Perhaps the casual college basketball fan of a certain age is unfamiliar with Wood. That’s too bad because he’s actually the fifth-highest scorer in North Carolina history with 2,015 points, and his 825 made free throws rank third. From his sophomore through senior season, Wood averaged 18.3 points with the Tar Heels. A two-time ACC First-Team selection (1979, ’81), Wood shot 56.0 percent for his career and averaged 5.0 rebounds per contest.
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James Worthy, Forward (1980-82)
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Worthy averaged a team-leading 15.6 points during the 1981-82 season, which the Tar Heels concluded with the school’s second national title. An All-American that season, Worthy was named NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 1982. Overcoming an injury that cut short his freshman season, Worthy totaled 1,219 points (14.5 average), 620 rebounds (7.4), 208 assists (2.5), 117 steals (1.4), and 94 blocks (1.1) for his collegiate career. Worthy’s No. 52 was retired by the school.
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Sam Perkins, Forward (1981-84)
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Perkins was part of the 1982 Tar Heels team that won Dean Smith his first national championship. With 2,145 career points, Perkins is third on the school’s scoring list. His 1,168 rebounds are second-most in North Carolina history, and Perkins ranks third with 279 career blocks. Perkins nearly averaged a double-double during his junior and senior seasons, and he finished his career putting up 15.9 points and pulling down 8.6 boards per contest. He was a three-time All-ACC pick and twice named a consensus first-team All-American (1983, ’84).
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Michael Jordan, Guard (1982-84)
The foundation for Michael Jordan’s remarkable basketball legacy was laid at North Carolina, where during three seasons he averaged 17.7 points, shot 54.0 percent, and pulled down 5.0 rebounds per game. Before he was a named a two-time first-team All-American (1983, ’84), ACC Player of the Year (1984), and national player of the year (1984, Wooden, Naismith), the skinny and rather lanky Jordan knocked down the game-winning shot against Georgetown in the 1982 national championship game. Jordan’s iconic No. 23 is retired at North Carolina.
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Brad Daugherty, Forward-Center (1983-86)
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Daugherty enjoyed plenty of success on both the college and professional level. At North Carolina, the 6-7 Daugherty went from serviceable contributor to one of the 1980s’ top big men. As a junior, Daugherty averaged 17.3 points and a career-high 9.7 rebounds. A year later, he averaged a personal-best 20.2 points and 9.2 boards while earning second-team All-American honors. Daugherty ranks ninth all-time at Carolina in points (1,912) and rebounds (1,003). His 62.0 field-goal percentage is third-best in school history.
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Jerry Stackhouse, Forward (1994-95)
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The exciting, high-flying Stackhouse spent just two seasons playing in Chapel Hill, but he made plenty of memories for Tar Heels fans. He totaled 1,080 points and pulled down 456 rebounds as a Tar Heel. In 1994-95, North Carolina reached the Final Four while Stackhouse averaged 19.2 points — shooting 51.7 percent — 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.5 steals to become a consensus All-American and Sports Illustrated‘s National Player of the Year.
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Antawn Jamison, Forward (1996-98)
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Jamison averaged 19 points and 9.9. rebounds during his three seasons at North Carolina. It was the 1997-98 season when Jamison dominated the country while averaging 22.2 points on 57.9 percent shooting and 10.5 assists. Jamison won the Wooden Award and was the Naismith Player of the Year that season. Another Tar Heel to have his jersey retired by the school, Jamison, part of two Final Four teams, ranks ninth within the program in points (1,974) and seventh in rebounds (1,027).
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Brendan Haywood, Center (1998-01)
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Among the legendary names that have played at North Carolina, Haywood might be one of the more unheralded talents. He never earned first-team All-American honors, but he was a member of the ACC’s All-Defensive Team in 2001. The 7-foot Haywood averaged just 10 points, but his career 63.7 field-goal percentage is a school and an ACC record. His 69.7 field-goal percentage from 1999-2000 is also a single-season school and league record. Haywood averaged six rebounds during his Tar Heels career, and he’s Carolina’s all-time leader with 304 blocks.
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Sean May, Forward (2003-05)
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Son of Indiana Hoosiers legend Scott May, Sean May enjoyed a special three seasons at North Carolina. The 6-9 May averaged 15.8 points on 51.3 percent shooting and 10.0 rebounds during his career with the Tar Heels. It was the 2004-05 season that truly showed off May’s talent, when he scored 17.5 points and pulled down 10.7 boards per contest. He also earned second-team All-American honors and was the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player while helping North Carolina win its fourth national title — and first with coach Roy Williams in charge.
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Tyler Hansbrough, Center (2006-09)
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Among all the legendary players that have suited up for the Tar Heels, various college basketball analysts, pundits, and historians consider Hansbrough to be the best. No player in North Carolina basketball history has scored more points than Hansbrough’s 2,872 (also an ACC record) or pulled down as many rebounds (1,219). He’s also the school career record holder for double-figure scoring games (138), made field goals (939), and made free throws (982). Hansbrough, who averaged 20.2 points and 8.6 career rebounds, was the first ACC player to be named first-team all-conference four times and was a three-time first-team All-American. He swept the national player of the year awards in 2007-08 and helped the Tar Heels win the 2009 national championship.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.