First of all, hope everyone is happy, healthy, and staying as entertained as possible in these strange times. To aid in that last part, here are ten of the most entertaining and re-watchable games in the history of our beloved Tar Heels.
A note on this list: These are games that are currently available in their entirety on the internet. Games like The Walter Davis Shot in 1974, Ford and Co. upsetting UNLV in ‘77, or the Dudley Bradley Steal Game in ‘79 would all be wonderful but are not readily available. As such, there is a recency bias to this list for which I apologize to the more venerable among us.
Here goes (in chronological order):
- The 1982 National Championship Game
As I suggested in my piece last summer, I highly recommend syncing with Woody Durham’s radio broadcast below:
Arguably the greatest game in UNC history, certainly the most iconic. Hall of Fame players and coaches on both teams. Two all-time championship performances from Worthy and Patrick Ewing. The greatest player of all-time hits the game winner, and the game is sealed by an all-time blunder. Yeah...this one’s worth revisiting.
Best Moment: “Goes back to Michael Jordan, jumper from out on the left, GOOD! 63-62. 13...12...11...Georgetown with one timeout. Fred Brown looking...THROW AWAY TO WORTHY! WORTHY, FIVE! THE TAR HEELS ARE GOING TO WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!”
Best Player: Worthy. Was huge in the first half with a series of jump shots when Ewing had locked up the interior, and was electric in the second with a string of highlight reel dunks. Locked himself into the first overall pick in the NBA Draft with this game.
Underrated Gem: I’m gonna embrace bipartisanship here and say Sleepy Floyd (shout out to Gastonia!). His reputation may not have aged like his peers but he was a terrific player (All-American that year) and hit a series of tough shots, the last of which would have given Georgetown the title if not for Jordan.
2. The 1993 Comeback vs. Florida State
Rather like the 2005 win over Duke (more on that later), this was a dramatic regular season win that hinted that this might be the year that things changed for the Tar Heels. Florida State dominated the Heels for 30 minutes, building a huge lead, then UNC came back. Noteworthy is the raucous Dean Dome crowd that remembered Sam Cassell’s “wine and cheese” line from the previous year.
Best Moment: George Lynch’s steal and dunk to take the lead
Best Player: Donald Williams. Came up with clutch shooting in a big game...not for the last time in 1993.
Underrated Gem: Dean Smith starting the game with Derrick Phelps and Brian Reese on the bench because they had been two minutes late to a team meeting. Seriously, how many college coaches have principle to do that today? Looked like it would cost them...then it didn’t.
3. The 1993 National Championship
Terrific title game between a blue collar Tar Heel squad and a trend-setting Michigan team. Dean’s second ring in the Big Easy, courtesy of a clutch shooting guard and an opponent’s crunch time blunder. Deja voodoo anyone (I’ll see myself out...)
Best Moment: The Webber timeout
Best Player: Donald Williams. Clutch again. Five of the purest threes you’ll ever see.
Underrated Gem: George Lynch’s performance. One of the most underrated Tar Heels of all time putting in the lunch pail work as always against Michigan’s vaunted frontline.
4. 1995 Double-OT versus Duke
Stackhouse, Wallace, and Donald Williams wreaked havoc on Duke in Cameron...but Duke didn’t wither like they were expected to. Crazy swings to this game: a 17-point comeback by Duke, a 12-point comeback by UNC, Duke forces 2OT after being down 8 with 25 seconds left. Best game ever between the two teams.
Best Moment: The Stackhouse dunk. “Oh, America!”
Best Player: Sheed. Went berserk on a helpless Cherokee Parks and Eric Meek before fouling out. Had 25 points on 10-11 shooting.
Underrated Gem: Jeff McInnis’ heads-up steal and layup that proved to be the game winner. Happened so fast that the cameras and Duke scorekeeper missed it at first.
5. The 1998 #1 vs. #2 Beatdown of Duke
Possibly the greatest performance ever by a UNC team. Antawn Jamison’s finest hour, Vince Carter’s aerial assault, Ed Cota abusing Steve Wojciechowski, and Shammond Williams’ sharpshooting. But for a brief second half lull this was perfection.
Best Moment: Cota’s under-the-arm pass to Jamison for the and-one.
Best Player: Jamison. 35 points while having the ball for only 53 seconds.
Underrated Gem: Shammond Williams. It’s a mark of how good UNC was that night that Williams went 8-11 from the field and was still overshadowed by Jamison and Carter.
6. The Marvin Williams Game
The greatest home win of the Roy Williams Era. The best performance ever by a Tar Heel against Duke (May). An all-time Carolina-Duke moment, and the ultimate monkey-off-the-back regular season finale.
Best Moment: The Marvin play
Best Player: Sean May. 26 and 24 against Shelden Williams, that year’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Underrated Gem: Jackie Manuel holding Redick to a goose egg in the second half.
7. 2005 National Championship Game
Roy’s first ring. A win in hostile territory against an all-time team. An absolutely terrifying last couple minutes. A big time performance by an all-time Tar Heel.
Best Moment: Nantz: “Sean May said that there’s nothing he wants more than a championship for Coach Roy; ‘I want him twenty years from now, when he’s won a number of them, to remember this group bringing him his first’”
Best Player: Sean May. The birthday boy abused Illinois’ interior, went for 26 and 10, and completed the best two-month stretch a Tar Heel player has ever had with a title.
Underrated Gem: Raymond Felton’s shooting. Felton had worked to improve as an outside shooter for three years and, with Deron Williams hounding him all night, nailed four threes in the title game.
8. J.J. Redick’s Senior Night
(I’m afraid this game is only available in parts, but trust me: Those two extra clicks are well worth it.)
The sweetest win ever at Duke. An all-time upset of a loaded and hyped Duke team. The game that really put Hansbrough and the young core on the map and previewed the dominant squad they became.
Best Moment: Uh, the look on Redick and Melchionni’s stupid faces? OK, fine, it’s the Hansbrough three.
Best Player: Hansbrough. Outdueled “The Landlord” in his own tenement and hit the iconic shot.
Underrated Gem: Byron Sanders!!! Admit it, you forgot about him. Came in midway through the second half to spell Hansbrough and scored a couple buckets to help trigger a big run.
9. The 2009 National Championship Game
Carolina’s best performance ever in a title game, and they did it in front of what felt like the whole state of Michigan. A lights out first half, a terrific pair of performances from Lawson and Ellington, and the dream sendoff for Hansbrough, Danny Green, and Co.
Best Moment: Ellington’s breakaway dunk to give UNC a record 55 first half points
Best Player: Lawson. 21 points and 8(!!!) steals to cap off a terrific season for him.
Underrated Gem: UNC’s defense. This squad, like many Roy Williams teams, was criticized for not working hard enough on D. But they brought it defensively all tournament and they hounded the Spartans all night both inside and on the perimeter, leading to many transition buckets.
10. The Luke Maye Shot
They finally put it online!!! A classic March Madness moment by an unlikely hero. A terrific game between two college basketball blue bloods. The signature moment of UNC’s Redemption Team. LUUUUUUKE!
Best Moment: Hmmm, you know nothing really stands out- LUUUUUUKE!
Best Player: LUUUU- You know what, I actually would go with Justin Jackson. He provided his usual shooting and had 19 points but he also LOCKED UP Malik Monk all night. Keep in mind that Monk had fried UNC for 47 points earlier that season. Jackson took it personal.
Underrated Gem: Kennedy Meeks. Meeks had just 8 points...but he only took 4 shots. He pulled down 17 boards and recorded 4 blocked shots, giving Kentucky fits inside all night. The sentence “Kennedy Meeks outplayed Bam Adebayo in a win-or-go-home game” may sound crazy to many NBA fans, but that’s exactly what happened. And it doesn’t surprise any Tar Heel fans.