The UNC Tar Heels have a very rich basketball tradition with greats like Michael Jordan and Vince Carter coming through the program. Dean Smith brought the program to greatness while breaking color barriers in the South. Hubert Davis now heads the program boasting one of the best starts to a college head coaching career by reaching the National Championship game in 2022.

#10 Ty Lawson

ty lawson new

Ty Lawson could be the fastest point guard in UNC history. He embodied what the team needed in the 2009 season where he won a national championship with future NBA players Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Ed Davis, and Tyler Zeller. The speed helped the Tar Heels get into the patented fast break they are known for and led the team in assists. 

#9 Rasheed Wallace

Rasheed Wallace

Rasheed Wallace is known as a wild man who holds the NBA record for most technical fouls in a single season. Before screaming, “Ball, don’t lie!” Wallace played for the Tar Heels with running mate Jerry Stackhouse. He recorded over five dunks against top rival Duke in a single

#8 Jerry Stackhouse

Jerry Stackhouse

Jerry Stackhouse could do it all for the Tar Heels as a great defender, shooter, and slasher. No UNC versus Duke highlight reel is complete without Jerry’s reverse dunk going from one side of the hoop to the other. Stackhouse found NBA success early, as he immediately averaged over 20 points per game. Stackhouse now finds himself coaching at the college level, with many fans reminiscing about how great a player he was.

#7 Phil Ford

Phil Ford Phil Ford won national player of the year, just like Hansbrough. Ford was considered one of the best athletes to ever wear Carolina Blue before Michael Jordan. Phil could be the reason that all Tar Heel coaches have looked for immensely fast point guards, as this is a staple of the program. Standing at 6 foot 6 inches, he was a large guard who is now in the basketball hall of fame.

#6 Vince Carter

Vince Carter

Vince Carter played for over 20 seasons in the NBA which saw multiple changes in playing style. Carter was known for elite athleticism with massive dunks and blocks that fans had to see to believe. The NBA Dunk Contest legend had what many believe is the fastest drive to the basket ever. The run and gun playing style that Dean Smith implemented with every team fit perfectly into Carter’s skillset.

#5 Sam Perkins

sam perkins

Sam Perkins was the #4 pick in the 1984 NBA draft behind teammate Michael Jordan. Perkins was known as the “Big Smooth” which perfectly described his game. A fierce rebounder with a soft touch and great jumpshot were just a few ways to define Perkins. Being a lefty, defenders at all levels found it tough to stop Sam when he had it going offensively. 

#4 James Worthy

sam perkins

James Worthy was the driving force for the 1982 National Championship team with Jordan and Perkins. He was also the #1 pick in the 1982 NBA draft. Worthy has a lightning-fast first step and was a formidable rebounder. He fit perfectly within the system that legend Dean Smith put together. Worthy went on to have an incredible NBA career with another high-paced team, the Showtime Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. 

#3 Antawn Jamison

antawn jamison

Antawn Jamison was a part of one of the most exciting UNC teams which included Vince Carter. Jamison was a fierce rebounder and ran the floor quickly leading to exciting dunks. The aspect of Jamison’s game that stood out in the NBA was his impeccable footwork in the low post. Jamison tallied great stats in the NBA with efficient shooting percentages and even had an array of high post moves.

#2 Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan likely could have taken the #1 spot had he stayed in college for 4 years. With only 3 seasons under his belt, Hansbrough deserves the spot. Jordan won a national championship in 1982 with James Worthy and Sam Perkins as a freshman. Both teammates were top 5 NBA draftpicks that saw great success in the NBA. 

#1 Tyler Hansbrough

tyler hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough or Psycho T as he was nicknamed is beloved by UNC fans. He had an insatiable appetite to win and did just that while staying all 4 of his years of eligibility. He is the leading scorer and is 2nd in rebounds. Hansbrough capped his career off with a national championship in 2009. He also led the Tar Heels to a Final 4 birth. 

Best UNC Basketball Players FAQs

Which era is considered the golden age for UNC basketball and its players?

No era is considered the best ever in UNC basketball as there has been a championship won in the last five decades by a team. Team making a Final Four is as expected as many UNC fans demand success.

Are there any recent players who have left a lasting impact on UNC basketball?

Michael Jordan left a lasting impact on the program due to his success in the NBA. 

What are some of the most memorable performances by UNC basketball players?

Michael Jordan hitting the game winner against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA Championship game is a highlight all will remember. Caleb Love’s performance that ousted Duke in Coach K’s last game ever coached is one that will also live on in Tar Heel lore. 

Do UNC basketball players hold any notable records in NCAA history?

Armando Bacot holds records for double-doubles in a season as he is considered one of the best rebounders in NCAA history. 

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