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Rivalry Week: When Tar Heel teammates become foes

Let’s look back at some notable examples of times when teammates at UNC had to do battle against each other on the court or field at the professional level.

Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Bobcats Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Rivalry Week has been going on all over SB Nation sites, as well as here at Tar Heel Blog. However, we cover college sports and college sports are unique in that they are not the final destination for many athletes.

Hundreds of Tar Heels in many sports have gone on to professional careers. In most of those cases, they don’t end up on the same team with the other UNC players they had just spent years playing with. In honor of that, let’s take a look at some notable instances where Tar Heel teammates ended up doing battle in notable games at the professional level.

Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Sam Perkins were all teammates on the 1982 Tar Heel national championship winning basketball squad. Nine years later, they would be on opposing sides while playing for a title at the pro level.

Worthy had already won three titles as a member of the Lakers, while Perkins was looking for his first, having signed with LA before the season. As for Jordan, he and the Bulls had finally managed to vanquish their enemy, the Pistons, to advance to their first NBA Finals.

The team with two Heels drew first blood as Worthy and Perkins were LA’s joint leading scorers with 22, and Perkins hit a three with 14 seconds left that gave the Lakers the win. That’s as good as the series would get for them.

Over the next four games, Jordan averaged 30 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds as Chicago won the series in five games. Other than a 1-15 performance in game four, Perkins was good for the Lakers in a losing effort. Worthy was as well, but he ended up missing the decisive game with an injury.

Ken Willard and Chris Hanburger were Tar Heel teammates taken at opposite ends of the 1965 NFL Draft. Willard is one of several players tied for the highest selection in UNC football at #2 overall (others with that honor include Mitch Trubisky, Julius Peppers, and Lawrence Taylor). Meanwhile, Hanburger went towards the end, getting picked in a round that doesn’t even exist anymore, the 18th. Both had good NFL careers, but the lower picked ended up having a legendary one. Hanburger was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2011.

The two and their pro teams met several times over the course of the 10 years they were both in the league, but the highest profile of them came on a fairly big stage. On December 26, 1971, Willard’s San Francisco team hosted Hanburger and Washington in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

Just based on their positions (Willard a running back, Hanburger a linebacker), the two likely would’ve had some interaction on the field at some point. (There are no tackling stats, at least that I could find) Hanburger and his defensive teammates held Willard mostly in check as he had 19 carries for just 46 yards. However, the 49ers emerged victorious 24-20 thanks mainly to their passing game and a special teams touchdown that proved the vital score.

Among the most high profile non-playoff games in an MLB regular season is the Subway Series games between the Yankees and Mets. Back in 2015, a pair of UNC teammates went directly head to head.

Matt Harvey and Dustin Ackley were both on the 2009 Diamond Heels squad that went to the College World Series. Six years later, they would directly face off in a game between the pro cross-city rivals.

Ackley hadn’t had the best of times since going #2 in the 2009 MLB Draft. He was on his second team, the Yankees, on September 20, 2015. Harvey then went seventh overall a year after Ackley was drafted, to the Mets, a team he was a star for by 2015.

Harvey got the best of Ackley while he was in the game, getting him to line out in the second inning and groundout in the fifth. However, the Yankee got the last laugh on that day.

In the inning after Harvey had been removed, Ackley hit a three-run home run off a Mets’ reliever, extending the Yankees lead, as they eventually won 11-2. As for what their current baseball careers look like...it’s not great, and let’s just leave it there.

Ivory Latta and Erlana Larks were teammates in Chapel Hill from 2004-07, helping the UNC’s women’s basketball team to Final Fours in 2006 and ‘07. Seven years after that second Final Four run, they were on opposite sides doing battle in the WNBA playoffs.

Latta and Larkins were both key pieces respectively for the Washington Mystics and Indiana Fever in 2014. Their teams finished with the exact same record, with the Fever getting the higher seed via tiebreaker. That tiebreaker ended up being somewhat big as it gave them home court advantage when the two teams faced off in the first round of the playoffs.

The best of three series started in Indiana, and both Tar Heels had big performances in game one. The Mystics led game one through three quarters, but the Fever eventually took game one with Larkins putting up a game-high 11 rebounds. In a losing effort, Latta led her team in points and assists with 22 and five.

Washington had no room for error in such a short series, and their loss came back to haunt them. The Fever took game two as well, this one in overtime. Larkins again had a big day on the boards, again grabbing a game high 11 rebounds. Latta was held to just 2-13 shooting and failed to make a three-pointer for the first time that season.