In the rathers of the Smith Center hang 53 honored and retired jerseys. At home basketball games, these jerseys serve as reminders of the players and moments that contribute to the legacy of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Of course, you cannot wear those jerseys. The jerseys are not mementos* that can be adorned on game days, pick up games, and when the weather constitutes sleeveless attire.
*except for the guy that got the Phil Ford jersey from the rafters and when Michael Jordan’s was stolen by Duke students in 1998.
The best collection of UNC basketball jerseys is located beside the Smith Center. It is hard to beat game-worn and autographed jerseys. And who knows how many are not on exhibit for public display.
Just like those jersey banners in the rafters, you have no chance of trying one on.
For this edition of Tar Heel Show and Tell, we are looking for the biggest private UNC jersey collection.
We are ruling out museums, businesses, and distributors. There is plenty of brick and mortar and virtual sports memorabilia shops, and they probably have a lot of Carolina jerseys lying around. But if they have a price tag on them, that does not count.
Some searching found other jersey collectors, including the Guinness World Records for largest collection of football (soccer) shirts.
Fortunately, I had a good lead on the top Tar Heel jersey collector. My friend and loyal Tar Heel Blog reader Jackson boasts an impressive UNC jersey collection.
I sat down (virtually) with Jackson to discuss the collection. He even made an account (uncjerseyjack) for the interview!
Tar Heel Blog: How many jerseys do you own?
Jackson: 58 Carolina basketball jerseys (57 men’s, one women’s) and two football jerseys.
Some folks are sneakerheads, so I guess you could say I’m a jerseyhead.
THB: How did the collection start?
J: Believe it or not, as a kid, I was more of an NBA fan. Don’t get me wrong, I was a Carolina fan, but we’re talking the Golden Age of the NBA. So I started accumulating NBA jerseys at a pretty young age. Some of them were hand-me-downs from older cousins, and some were gifts. I still actually have my Shaquille O’Neal Magic jersey.
My first UNC jersey was Joseph Forte. I still have the jersey, although it’s a pretty snug fit these days. Once I got to college, I decided I needed to upgrade from my Forte and Felton jerseys, so I checked out eBay. They didn’t have any Hansbrough jerseys in my size, but a few years later, I just started perusing eBay again and came across some jerseys that caught my eye. That’s when the collection really started to grow.
THB: What kinds of jerseys do you have?
J: As far as Carolina jerseys go, I have mostly basketball jerseys (including one women’s jersey), but I do have 2 Lawrence Taylor UNC jerseys. I also have a Coby White Bulls jersey, and depending on where Cole Anthony goes, and I might end up with his NBA jersey.
THB: How do you procure new jerseys for the collection?
J: These days it’s mostly e-commerce sites like eBay, Poshmark, or Mercari. Every now and then, I’ll purchase a new release in a store like 1969 throwback jersey that was released in 2019. I loved the look of it,` so I decided to get one when it was released.
THB: What do you look for when purchasing a new jersey for the collection?
J: Pretty much like any product: quality versus price.
THB: Do you ever wear the jerseys?
J: Yes, more than my wife would like for me to. I wear a jersey anytime we are playing a basketball game: home game, away game, in-person, watching at home, out with friends. I will also casually wear jerseys during the summer.
THB: What is your favorite?
1). J.R. Reid MacGregor Sand-Knit jersey: I knew this jersey had to be pretty old when I first came across it since MacGregor doesn’t produce/sell college jerseys anymore. I did some research and found that MacGregor took over Sand-Knit in 1984. This particular ‘Crown’ tag was used from 1987-1989, which makes sense, given that’s when J.R. Reid played at Carolina. From the information I’ve gathered, MacGregor stopped producing college jerseys in 1989.*
Considering the age of the jersey, the condition it’s in, and the history behind it, I was blown away by how little the seller was asking for it, so I jumped on it immediately. It’s almost like the jersey has never been worn; no loose strings, no tears, no stains, the numbers, and lettering are still in great shape. I love a good throwback jersey, but to find one that was from the actual era that player played in and in such great shape, this by far makes it my favorite.
2). Phil Ford Rawlings Jersey: This jersey is similar to the MacGregor jersey in that it was manufactured by a company that no longer produces college basketball jerseys: Rawlings. Unfortunately, the front tag of the jersey is missing, so it’s hard for me to date with 100% certainty (only the neck tag remains). From the info I’ve gathered, this jersey dates around 1985-1986.*
The jersey itself isn’t in the best shape, but much like the MacGregor jersey, it’s allowed for me to do some research, which is half the fun!
*Based on information from http://sportstaggingdatabase.yolasite.com/
3). Ed Cota/Jeff McInnis jersey: This jersey has more of a funny story; on top of that, it’s just a clean look and in great shape for a mid-90s stitched jersey.
I came across this on eBay, but the seller was selling both this jersey and the shorts for $100... I really didn’t have any interest in the shorts, but for a mid-90s jersey, it was in great condition, especially (also, white jerseys are a lot less common than the away blue jerseys), so I added it to my watch list on eBay. After a week or so, I noticed the jersey and shorts were still listed on eBay, so I reached out to the seller directly. I informed the seller that I really wasn’t interested in the shorts, but I would purchase the jersey for $40. The seller countered with $50 for the jersey and shorts together... So needless to say, I am now the proud owner of complete UNC mid 90s home uniform set.
4). Marion Jones paisley jersey: What’s one of the first things everyone thinks of when you mention Carolina basketball uniforms? That’s right, argyle. That’s why I was so surprised to see a Carolina jersey trimmed with a pattern of… paisley??? After searching through a lot of blurry Google images, from what I can tell, it appears the Lady Heels donned uniforms with a paisley trim down the side during the 1997 season. I wonder if Julian Alexander also designed these?… I’ll be honest, it’s been tough to find any info on these jerseys (especially looking through old Google images from the 90s), so if anyone has any info on these uniforms, I’d love to hear it!
Montross/Haywood jersey: This one just brings back so many memories… First of all, I love the 00 look. There’s just something about it. The symmetry. The simplicity. I don’t know what it is… But more importantly, this is the jersey I wore throughout the 2017 season all the way to the national title. I have a little tradition with my jerseys: I will wear the same jersey until we lose two games in a row, at which point I will switch to a new jersey (haters will call it superstition). So, needless to say, that 2017 season, I was rocking 00 the entire season. Like Woody said: go where you go, do what you do.
THB: Any jersey that stays at the bottom of the stack?
J: The 2013 alternate jersey. I never really liked it when it came out, but I saw it pop up on eBay a while back. The price was right, and I thought maybe the look would grow on me (like the 1999-2000 interlocking NC jerseys), but I still haven’t come around to it yet. It just looks like a practice jersey.
THB: Which jersey is currently on your watch list?
J: To be honest, nothing really on my watch list at the moment. I have a few friends who have asked me to keep an eye out for some particular jerseys for them. So I guess you could say I’m being contracted out at the moment. I should probably negotiate a finder’s fee…
THB: What jersey is your “white whale”?
J: I still haven’t been able to find any Antawn Jamison jerseys in my size, so if anyone has one in adult small they are willing to part ways with, let me know!
More jerseys than hangs in the rafters.
But the number of jerseys in the collection are not the story. These jerseys tell the stories. Not just of who wore it and the games in which they played, but of the new memories that are made when these jerseys are worn for the game that night. These stories are not locked in time, but rather a pivotal part of the ever-evolving narrative as each game is played.
Are there any readers with a larger jersey collection? Are there other UNC items that you collect? Does anyone have Antawn Jamison jersey in an adult small? Let us know in the comments below.