When you’re a certain age or older, you may remember the old Tournament of Champions in Charlotte. It was a made-for-TV event in the “new” Charlotte Coliseum, and it began as a way for UNC and NC State to have a December tournament that was at a neutral court but...not really neutral. It quickly became UNC’s tournament, for various reasons, and 2001 was the least year of the event. The Hornets have gone and come back since then, and the Hornets have moved to a shiny arena in downtown Charlotte, and, most importantly, have become owned by Michael Jordan.
In the meantime, to celebrate the power that is Nike, Phil Knight had a tournament in his name a few seasons ago. As a Nike school, Carolina participated, infamously getting trounced in their championship game. That said, Carolina isn’t a Nike school so much as they are a Jumpman school, and while they were the first, other schools had joined the brand.
On Thursday, it was announced the idea of having a tournament in Charlotte and uniting schools that wear the iconic brand were merged into one.
For the next three years, starting in December 2022, the Tar Heels will go two hours west to Charlotte and meet up with the three other original Jumpman branded schools for a holiday tournament, all under the eyes of the logo himself.
With the introduction of NIL, it isn’t a coincidence that this tournament was announced because to have that many Jumpman Schools in one location, complete with the man himself present, will afford all of the athletes at these schools to take advantage of opportunities. The hype video above gives you the quick “ESPN Events” flash, meaning that ESPN will manage this, and we all know the level of hype that’ll usually bring.
Perhaps the coolest twist in this, though, is that it isn’t just for the men. Every school has both men’s and women’s teams in the Jumpman brand, and the event will bring both teams to play in the tournament. Now, not only do you have a showcase event hyped by ESPN for college basketball as the world starts to transition to the sport, you have a major showcase event for women’s college basketball that has Michael Jordan and ESPN hyping it up. It’s a major step for growing the game overall, and is a huge win for Courtney Banghart in terms of marketing UNC as she gets eyes on Chapel Hill.
For 2022 it’ll just be the four schools, but the understanding is that depending on its success it can expand, and the matchups and schedule will be determined later.
What’s unknown is if this will end UNC’s participation in the CBS Sports Classic. On Thursday, it was also announced that the Tar Heels would play UCLA in this year’s version at 3pm/et. A site hasn’t yet been set for this year’s event, and the event is contracted through 2022. The problem is that both events are in late December, and the more neutral court events you sign up for, the less home games you can play in front of your fans. Non-conference space is also limited because of the 20 game conference schedule, and now three games are going to happen in December. Does the CBSSC keep going and Carolina stop going to Thanksgiving tournaments, or is next season the last that Carolina goes?
Either way, December 2022 looks to be a lot of fun with a marquee non-conference matchup followed by the return of tournament basketball in Charlotte.