On Sunday, March 26th, 2017, UNC Tar Heel Sophomore Luke Maye made the Chapel Hill faithful as proud as can be when he hit what proved to be the eventual game winner against the Kentucky Wildcats with 0.3 seconds remaining to propel the Tar Heels to the Final Four. Maye, who showed off his clutch gene, will forever be held in high allure in UNC’s storied history regardless of whether or not he becomes a successful pro as a result of this lone big shot.
However, one’s college success (or lack of success), isn’t necessarily a key indicator of how he will perform at the professional level. There have been those Tar Heels that have been absolute studs at the college level and have fizzled at the pro level. On the other hand, there have been those that donned the Carolina blue that fared much better in the pros than they did in the NCAA. Here, we take a look at eight UNC Tar Heels that made the program proud and seven that did not.
15. PROUD: Vince Carter
Now in his nineteenth season at the pro level, Vince Carter is no longer the dunking phenom he was when he first stepped into the league in 1998. However, Carter has shown that he still has something left in the tank as evidenced by his current averages of 7.9 PPG and 3.0 RPG for the Memphis Grizzlies in a reserve role. Carter holds a career average of 18.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.4 APG and has averaged over twenty points a game in eleven of his nineteen seasons. Frequently referred to as “Half-Man/Half-Amazing” (not as much these days, but throughout his prime), Carter’s name is synonymous with the NBA’s Dunk Contest. Moreover, Carter’s standout performance in 2000 set the bar so high that both casual and diehard fans have had a hard time enjoying the contest simply because of the stellar show Carter put on in Y2K. If you’ve never seen the forenamed contest, do yourself a favor and check it out. However, be warned: it will likely ruin future dunk contests for you!
14. NOT PROUD: Eric Montross
In his four years as a North Carolina Tar Heel, big man Eric Montross showed progression year in and year out. As a result, the Boston Celtics selected the Indianapolis, Indiana native ninth overall in the 1994 NBA Draft hoping he’d be the big man of the future in Beantown. Montross was anything but the big man of the future as he only lasted two seasons in Boston before he was shipped out to the Dallas Mavericks. Being shipped out became a career pattern for Montross as he played for six teams in eight years. Montross finished his NBA career averaging an uninspiring 4.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG. In addition, Montross never averaged more than 10.0 PPG, which came in his rookie season. Moreover, Montross seemed to regress as the years passed.
13. PROUD: Rasheed Wallace
Sure, Rasheed Wallace may have quite the potty mouth as evidenced by being the NBA’s all-time technical foul leader with a total of 317, but it doesn’t mean that Wallace didn’t enjoy his fair amount of success in the NBA. Along with being synonymous for being a referee’s worst enemy, Wallace is famous for coining the phrase “ball don’t lie”, which refers to a player missing a shot from the line after a questionable foul (at least a questionable foul in the eyes of ‘Sheed). In his sixteen years in the NBA, Wallace averaged 14.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 1.3 BPG as a member of the then-Washington Bullets, Portland Trail Blazers, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. Oh yeah, he was an Atlanta Hawk for one game! Wallace won an NBA Championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons and was named an All-Star on four occasions. Frequently praised for being the heart and soul of his teams, Wallace’s passion for the game is something that can not be questioned by anyone.
12. NOT PROUD: Sam Perkins
Sam Bowie will forever have the misfortune of being drafted before Michael Jordan. The man drafted after Michael Jordan was another guy named Sam, MJ’s fellow Tar Heel teammate, Sam Perkins. Nicknamed “Big Smooth,” Perkins had a great four year career at UNC as he finished with averages of 15.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 1.8 BPG. In the NBA, Perkins was unable to establish himself as a franchise player for the Dallas Mavericks in the six years he spent with the team. In stints with the Seattle SuperSonics and Indiana Pacers, Perkins was behind the likes of Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf in the Emerald City and the likes of Reggie Miller and Rik Smits in the Hoosier State. Perkins finished his NBA career with averages of 11.9 PPG and 6.0 RPG and even played until he was thirty-nine. However, considering he never became the face of a franchise like many Tar Heels fans thought, he is a bit of a disappointment.
11. PROUD: Mitch Kupchak
Mitch Kupchak wasn’t too shabby as an NBA player, and his nine year career averages of 10.2 PPG and 5.4 APG are evident of the fact. However, Kupchak really made his mark as General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. Having recently been fired in 2016, it’s easy to say Kupchak struggled to reestablish the Lakers as a Western Conference threat after the failed acquisitions of superstar point guard Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard. Yet, this doesn’t take away from what Kupchak did ever since he took over the reins in 2000. Kupchak orchestrated deals that bought in players such as the forenamed Howard and Nash (not to forget, when the deal was made everyone and their mother was proclaiming the Lakers as a super team), Pau Gasol, Karl Malone and Metta World Peace. In just under seventeen seasons as the team’s GM, Kupchak delivered five championships to the “City of Angels”. Hats off to you, Mr. Kupchak!
10. NOT PROUD: Rashad McCants
The 2005 North Carolina Tar Heels may have claimed an NCAA Division I Championship, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that each and every one of their four first round draft selections in the same calendar year were letdowns at the NBA level. One of those players was shooting fuard Rashad McCants. Selected fourteenth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, McCants only lasted in the league for five seasons and failed to establish himself as one who belonged in the league. Since 2010 McCants has had stints in the D-League as well as overseas and currently finds himself a free agent. The level of interest from teams for McCants services are non-existent and being out of the league for seven years isn’t doing him any favors.
9. PROUD: Brad Daugherty
Prior to LeBron James being Mr. Cavalier (with the exception of from 2010-2014 when he was a member of the Miami Heat), that honor belonged to Brad Daugherty. Daugherty only spent eight seasons in the NBA, retiring at the early age of thirty-one due to injuries. Yet he was productive in each and every one of his eight seasons, and he never averaged less than 15 PPG or 8 RPG. Daugherty finished his career averaging 19.0 PPG and 9.5 RPG and was named an NBA All-Star on five separate occasions. In addition, Daugherty had his number 43 retired by the Cavs in 1997. The skilled big man has recently taken his talents to broadcasting as, he serves as an analyst for the NBA as well as for college hoops for ESPN.
8. NOT PROUD: Brandon Wright
Brandan Wright spent a lone season playing for the Tar Heels and it was a solid one as he posted averages of 14.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.8 BPG. The then Charlotte Bobcats (now Charlotte Hornets) thought so as well as they selected the twenty year old eighth overall. Fortunately for the Michael Jordan owned franchise, they shipped the big man out on draft night to the Golden State Warriors. Wright didn’t establish himself as the big man of the future for “Dub Nation”; instead, he established himself as one who rarely saw the court. Now twenty-nine, Wright is now with his sixth team in nine seasons and has failed to show that he’s a player worthy of getting the lion’s share of minutes in any of his stops. To make matters worse, Wright has not once averaged double digits for a season.
7. PROUD: Kenny Smith
Selected sixth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft, Queens native Kenny Smith is best remembered for being a Houston Rocket as he teamed up with Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon to form one of the NBA’s most dominant PG and C duos of their time. Smith finished his NBA career averaging 12.8 RPG, 5.5 APG and 1.0 SPG along with winning two rings during his time as a Rocket. Yet, while Smith had a successful career on the hardwood, he’s arguably more recognized for his work on TNT’S Inside the NBA alongside the likes of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. Smith not only works for TNT, but has also done and continues to work for CBS at the college level. Let’s not forget the late great Dean Smith said the following of Kenny: “He’s the best lecturer ever. He had the best influence in terms of my workout regimen without question.” High praise from one held in high regard. Props to you, Mr. Kenny Smith!
6. NOT PROUD: J.R. Reid
When you last thirteen seasons in the NBA it’s a testament to one’s longevity. That’s one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is that while you may have played in the big leagues for over a dozen years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you lived up to your potential. Drafted fifth overall in 1989, J.R. Reid never materialized into a dominant force in the NBA like he was in college. Instead, Reid was primarily a journeyman having played for six different NBA teams during his career. Reid finished his NBA career with averages of 8.5 PPG and 3.5 RPG which were a far cry from his averages of 16.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG as a Tar Heel. Reid is a prime example of untapped potential.
5. PROUD: Bob McAdoo
Having played his first two seasons at Vincennes Junior College in Vincennes, Indiana, Bob McAdoo transferred to UNC for his junior season, then bypassed his senior season to declare for the NBA draft. McAdoo had UNC fans wishing they were as lucky as Vincennes to have him for two seasons as he averaged 19.5 PPG and 10.8 RPG ,which propelled him to be selected second overall in the 1972 NBA Draft by the Buffalo Braves (today’s Los Angeles Clippers). McAdoo excelled at the NBA level and was one of the league’s most dominant big men during his tenure. McAdoo won two championships, was named the 1975 NBA MVP, was selected to the NBA All-Star Game on five occasions and won the league’s scoring title on three occasions. With stats like that it’s unsurprising that McAdoo was selected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 2000.
4. NOT PROUD: Sean May
Imagine you had just come off winning the 2005 NCAA Division I Championship, were drafted by the NBA team who just so happened to play in the same home state as your alma mater and were also getting your college point guard (who was selected fifth overall, Raymond Felton), to come along for the ride. A recipe for success, no? Not exactly. May’s career in the NBA was such a colossal failure that he’s more known for plaguing weight issues as opposed to anything he did on the NBA hardwood. May’s conditioning was such an issue that in 2008 he was placed on the inactive list as he was deemed unfit to play. May found himself out of the NBA by 2010 and played overseas until 2015. He currently finds himself back at UNC as an Assistant to the Director of Player Development.
3. PROUD: James Worthy
James Worthy’s three years in Chapel Hill made him worthy (pun intended) of being selected number one overall in the 1982 NBA Draft. After averaging 14.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG in three seasons for the Tar Heels, the Los Angeles Lakers selected the combo forward to join their already stacked lineup which featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Worthy excelled in the pros just as he did in college, as he averaged 17.6 PPG and 5.1 RPG in his twelve years with the gold-standard Los Angeles franchise (no offense, Clipper fans). Worthy collected three NBA Championships, seven NBA All-Star selections and had his number 42 raised to the rafters just as his number 52 was likewise retired by UNC. Worthy currently finds himself assisting the Lakers in an Assistant Coach role.
2. NOT PROUD: Tyler Hansbrough
The saving grace that Tyler Hansbrough has is that he will forever have one of the most badass nicknames in the history of college basketball- “Psycho T”. Hansbrough was nothing short of monstrous during his four years in college as he averaged 20.2 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Hansbrough was a rugged and physical forward who wasn’t afraid to bang with bigs in the paint and was one who excelled at finding his own shot. Unfortunately, his college success didn’t translate to the big leagues. In his seven years in the pros, Hansbrough never established himself as a starting level caliber player. He only averaged double figures once and never averaged more than 5.2 RPG. To add insult to injury, Hansbrough currently finds himself in the D-League as a part of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
1. PROUD: Michael Jordan
Okay, so maybe “his Airness” didn’t exactly make UNC proud when he made the baffling statement of “the ceiling is the roof”; however, his contributions at both the college and pro level are a testament to his greatness. Jordan led the Heels to a National Championship in 1982 and was named the National College Player of the Year in 1984 and he only piggybacked off his college success when he reached the pros. Jordan’s accomplishments seem endless, as he’s a six-time NBA Champion having pulled off a three-peat on two occasions, a ten-time NBA scoring champion, a 14-time NBA All-Star, a five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA Finals MVP, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest Champion, and a ten-time NBA All-First Team selection. With these accomplishments it isn’t hard to see why Jordan is frequently lauded as “the G.O.A.T.”.
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