You may have heard by now that a statue that once stood near Franklin Street is no longer up. This piece isn’t about the merits of that action. There are other places for that to be discussed. We choose instead to look forward, not backward.
One of the bigger topics on Twitter soon after everything happened was what, if anything, should be erected in the now-vacant space, and the vast majority of those who opined had a transformative sports star they wanted there.
It got me thinking: this is really a topic worth debating? Also, it’d be nice to have some hard numbers to back up who the community at large feels should replace the now vacant spot.
Below, you’ll find your nine options with a short blurb about why they are on here, and a poll at the bottom. Check back next week to see who wins with a longer explanation about why they should be immortalized in statue form.
1) Dean Smith - Four Corners
Perhaps the tweet that got this whole discussion started was this one from Inside Carolina’s Taylor Vippolis:
Replace the Silent Sam statue with a Dean Smith “4 Corners” statue. pic.twitter.com/V5d8x8AMji— Taylor Vippolis (@tvippolis) August 21, 2018
There are multiple reasons why a lot of people would lean for Dean Smith, and him holding up a sign of the offense everyone feared would be perhaps the most appropriate. No doubt the hundred of players who walked campus under him would be thrilled to walk by this every time they were home.
2) Charles Scott (With or without Dean Smith)
Once Dean was mentioned, many fans were quick to mention that perhaps it shouldn’t be just Dean, but Dean with the player who helped finally integrate Carolina Men’s Basketball and brought the Tar Heels forward into the modern age of the sport. If you asked Coach Smith, he’d tell you it happened way too late, but it happened and is worthy of celebration. If you haven’t read the stories of what Scott faced on the road while playing for Carolina during his time, you should check them out and you’ll understand why he should be immortalized. Opinion seems to be split whether Scott should be by himself or with the man who helped recruit him here, so we’ll combine the two.
3) Dean Smith and Roy Williams
Coach Williams is about to get the court at the Smith Center named after him, and the suggestion these two go up together is about the sheer tradition and prestige they’ve brought to the University. Williams would absolutely refuse to be up solo, but might be willing to be teamed up with his mentor to represent the decades’ worth of players who have not only come to Carolina, but represent the University with class.
4) Michael Jordan
The man who became an icon with a silhouette, the man who could fly, the man who still sells more shoes than any other NBA player. He’s given millions to the school, and is still proud to call himself an alumnus. There are very few people of Jordan’s stature who can be so directly tied to a university, so this is a rare opportunity for UNC. He already has a statue in Chicago, but it’s high time the school that sent him into the world immortalized what he’s brought to Chapel Hill.
5) Stuart Scott
Scott was a star anchor at ESPN during their golden age of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. If he was reading an NBA highlight and someone, say Vince Carter, nailed a shot, he could be counted on to sneak in “Tar Heel” after the shot went in. He gave anchors at the network permission to embrace their fandom. Without Scott, you don’t have Scott Van Pelt unabashedly showing his love for his alma mater. After revolutionizing sports television, he then became a wholly different icon in the way he fought cancer so publicly. He hosted Late Night With Roy several times, and was never shy about showing his love for the school.
As an aside, I was lucky enough to be UNC class of 2001, and Scott was our commencement speaker. If you haven’t heard it, listen, and tell me you aren’t fired up.
6) Mia Hamm
Mia was women’s soccer in the 90’s. She was arguably the most important part of the machine that was the UNC women’s soccer program. Once she moved on to the US National Team, she quickly became the face of that program as well. When that team won the 1999 Women’s World Cup, she was one of the stars the team built its commercial success on. She gave girls a sports star to aspire to be like, and was a proud Tar Heel all along the way. Her influence sometimes gets forgotten in the pages of history, but a statue on campus would help reshape that.
7) Ricky Lanier
As important as Scott was for basketball, Lanier broke down the color barrier for Carolina football. Lanier came from Hermann Boone’s program and helped move Carolina Football forward by choosing to play for the Tar Heels. How important did UNC think Lanier was? The UNC Band used to play “Dixie” during the game until Lanier explained it made him uncomfortable. It wasn’t played again. Without Lanier choosing Carolina, who knows how long it takes football to integrate.
8) Rochelle Small-Toney
The young woman who never played a minute of basketball before setting foot on Carolina’s campus broke the color barrier for the Tar Heel women in 1978. With women’s basketball just starting to come up, and Pat Summitt being known as the coach who attracted all the top talent, Small-Toney helped open Chapel Hill up to talented women, showing there were other places to play. Small-Toney has since gone on to make history in other areas and, it could be argued, best represents what we all hope to be and do after we’ve left campus.
9) Danny Green
Not just any image of Danny Green, mind you. There’s a particular moment that needs to be immortalized:
This one never gets old. @DGreen_14 posterizes Duke's Greg Paulus at Cameron Indoor Stadium. #UNCBBall #GoHeels pic.twitter.com/1q9cBduH9f— Best UNC Moments (@tarheelmoments) November 28, 2016
Danny also has a great story that’s worth remembering: always fighting, from the bench to the starting role, and from the NBADL to an important piece of an NBA championship team. Besides, who wouldn’t smile looking at this every time they walked by?
So, there are your choices. Debate your choice in the comments. Keep it on topic and “I want what was there before” is not an option. This is meant to unite folks at Carolina, and I think all of these choices can do just that.
Who Should UNC Build a Statue Of?
This poll is closed
Dean Smith (Alone)
Charles Scott (With/without Dean Smith)
Dean Smith & Roy Williams