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Misconceptions About Hansbrough Breaking The Scoring Mark

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The art of minimizing an accomplishment.

I will say upfront that what Tyler Hansbrough ends up doing in becoming the all time leading scorer at UNC in no way takes away from the greatness of Phil Ford.  They are both legendary, once-in-a-generation players and because of that you usually only see such players every 30 years or so.  Still there are plenty of things people will say about Hansbrough breaking the record that either is an attempt to minimize what the senior center is doing or simply casting it as apples and oranges. I honestly think it is a little silly but those comments should make for good discussion among the THF community so here they are:

Phil Ford would have scored more if UNC did not run Four Corners.

This is wrong for two reasons.  The first is UNC averaged only a handful of points less during Ford's career than they right now.  Here is what UNC averaged per game as a team during the Ford years:

1974-75: 78.0
1975-76: 85.1
1976-77: 83.6
1977-78: 81.1
Four Yr Avg: 81.9

Given the fact UNC was running a slow down game those averages are pretty good.  Here is what UNC has done since Hansbrough has been in Chapel Hill.

2005-06: 79.4
2006-07: 85.7
2007-08: 88.6
2008-09: 97.3(nine games)
Four Yr Avg: 87.75

One caveat.  I think UNC will settle back and not finish this season averaging 97 ppg.  It should be closer to 90 if that which would make the four year average around 85 ppg.  Ford averaged 18.6 ppg in four years which was 22.7% of the offense.  Hansbrough has scored 23% of UNC's points during his career.  Both players were equally important offensively.  Had UNC scored a few more points on average during Ford's career, he would have likely been closer to Hansbrough average.

Ford Had Fewer Games

This is true.  Teams played fewer regular season games in general and the NCAA Tournament had fewer games.  The problem with this as an argument is Hansbrough is eclipsing Ford's mark in fewer games, nine fewer to be exact.  Sure it can be argued that Ford could have had more games and therefore it would take Hansbrough longer to pass him.  That still ends up being irrelevant since Hansbrough is averaging more points per game so even if Ford had 20 or so more games, Hansbrough would still pass him theoretically.

Ford Did Not Have The Three Point Shot

Neither has Hansbrough technically with only five made threes in his career at UNC.  The three point line did not exist during Ford's days so speculating how many points he would have gained from having it is tough.   The crux of Ford's scoring, as I understand it from those who saw him play, came from being able to get to the basket.  The Four Corners offense, while seen as a stalling offense, actually created isolation with a spread floor which Ford often took advantage of to get to the basket.  We can also speculate based on the fact that Ford only took 119 threes in his NBA career that he was necessarily looking to shooting from the perimeter but more content to drive with the option to dish or shoot.

The bottom line is players from different eras are difficult to compare but in this case the differences between the two time periods does not appear hurt the comparison.  While Ford might have benefited from current era rules, Ford also never faced the level of parity Hansbrough has seen either.  You can argue Hansbrough has earned his points against largely tougher competition than Ford faced.

And ultimatly none of this really matters.  What does is the fact we are talking about two great players who performed at the highest level UNC has seen in it's program.  They are both truly once-in-a-generation players and for those who have the priviledge to see both of them play, I am profoundly jealous.