“Donald was making so many shots I thought it was Donald’s birthday.” -Jalen Rose
Phil Ford is on record saying that the 1993 team played as well together as any team in Carolina history. Few would argue with that: Dean Smith’s second national championship team was deep, blue-collar, unselfish, and physical. A hungry and driven team, they owed their title to the anger of watching Duke’s back-to-back national titles and five consecutive Final Fours, and to the all-around team basketball that they played all season long.
That, and Donald Williams.
The only pure shooter on a team that relied heavily on interior dominance, Donald caught fire at exactly the right time. As discussed earlier on this list, he came up big against Duke in the regular season finale, and would carry his hot-shooting into the postseason.
In the Sweet 16 against Arkansas, he would score the last 9 points of the game. In an overtime thriller against Cincinnati in the Elite Eight, he hit two massive threes that finished off the Bearcats. And in the National Semifinal against Roy Williams’ Kansas Jayhawks, he went 5 of 7 from three point range and finished with 25 points.
Two nights later, he would do it again. The National Championship game pit the Tar Heels against the Fab Five of Michigan, the most famous and controversial team of the era. To say the teams were evenly matched would be an understatement: Michigan had beaten UNC at the buzzer earlier that year in the Rainbow classic. The two teams had hovered around the Top 5 all year. Michigan had been Preseason #1, Carolina ended the regular season at #1. Both were top-seeds, both relied on overpowering front lines and big, physical guard play.
The difference was Williams. Donald scored 17 points in the 2nd half, most of them coming at crucial moments when it looked like the Wolverines were going to wrestle control of the game from the Tar Heels. Just as he had done against Kansas, Williams finished with 25 points and hit 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. Every three was a must have and, as Jim Nantz said after the fifth dropped, “They never touch the rim!”
The last four of Donald’s points would come from the free throw line after a timeout call of certain distinction by a member of Wolverines whose name I think we all know. It has become popular to suggest that Chris Webber’s timeout handed the title to North Carolina. This is wrong: Webber was trapped in the corner with 11 seconds left. Run that situation back a hundred times and I’ll bet you the Wolverines score on exactly none of them. As Eric Montross would say years later, “The timeout didn’t lose the game, it sealed the game.” And Donald Williams was the one who won it.