The North Carolina Tar Heels have always been one of the most respected basketball programs in the NCAA, being a constant provider of great NBA talents with their consistency and emphasis on the basics and fundamentals of the game, unlike other programs like Kentucky that prefer the one-and-done way.
Over the course of history, dozens of Tar Heels have found a lot of success in the NBA, helping build their legacy as one of the greatest basketball programs in college basketball, and owning a huge fan base across the entire nation.
Today, we’ll take a look at the top 10 best players that came out of North Carolina to the NBA, not based on their performances during their time in the NCAA, but for what they achieved in the greatest league in world basketball.
Honorable Mention: Danny Green, Kenny Smith
10. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes came out of UNC as one of the most impressive talents in the 2012 draft, being selected 7th overall by the Golden State Warriors, where he won an NBA championship before signing a very lucrative deal with the Dallas Mavericks while the Warriors cleared space to sign Kevin Durant.
Even if Barnes hasn’t been as consistent and dominant as everybody expected him to be, he’s now the go-to-guy on Rick Carlisle's team, and the small forward had a very nice season in his first year as a Mav, so the future looks quite bright for the 24-year-old Olympic champion.
9. Antawn Jamison
The power forward was a complete monster during his NCAA career, earning the right to be chosen 4th overall way back in 1998 by the Toronto Raptors, being immediately dealt to the Warriors before playing for the Mavs, Wizards, Cavs, Lakers and Clippers, where he retired a couple of seasons ago.
So, Vince Carter’s brother-in-law was never able to win an NBA championship, but he was one of the most consistent and reliable substitutes in the league, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2004 and leaving lifetime averages of 18.5 points, 7.5 boards and 1 assist, as well as earning a couple of All-Star Game appearances.
8. Rasheed Wallace
As well as Jamison, Wallace was not only a Tar Heel, but he also was the 4th pick in the 1995 draft, being chosen by the Washington Bullets (Wizards) before playing for the Blazers, Hawks, Celtics, and Knicks, but he’ll definitely be remembered for his stint with the Pistons, where he won a ring alongside Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton.
Rasheed was quite a versatile power forward, and the duo he established with Ben on the Pistons is something to remember for the ages. Even if defense and athleticism were his forts when he first arrived into the league, he wound up developing a great offensive arsenal, averaging over 14 points in his career.
7. Jerry Stackhouse
“The Student” was supposed to be Michael Jordan’s successor, as the shooting guard was a terrific scorer and fierce competitor, going 3rd in the 1995 draft to the Philadelphia 76ers as one of the most offensively gifted players in that class.
Needless to say, even if Stackhouse was a very talented player, he didn’t come even close to his royal Airness, being more of a one-dimensional player. Still, “the Student” left behind averages of 16.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, making it to a couple of All-Star Games.
6. Billy Cunningham
Cunningham is definitely one of the best players in Philadelphia 76ers history, as the “Kangaroo Kid” was one of the main guys on the championship team that also featured Hal Greer and some guy called Wilt Chamberlain, averaging just over 26 points and almost 14 boards as a small forward.
After that stint with the Sixers, he made a move to the ABA, winning the MVP award before making a come back to Philly, where he was forced to retire due to injury at the age of 32 years old.
5. Charlie Scott
The shooting guard was one of the most gifted players during his brief tenure in the ABA, being featured in the ABA’s all-time best starting five despite only playing there for a couple of years before making a move to the NBA, where he won a championship with the Boston Celtics during the 1975-76 campaign.
Besides, the scorer was even a part of the USA Olympic team that brought home the gold in 1968, leaving career averages of 20.7 points, 4 boards, 4.9 helpers and 1.3 steals per game in over 700 games, retiring after just 10 seasons.
4. Bob Mcadoo
The 1975 MVP and 2-time NBA champion makes a spot on this list after being considered to be one of the best power forwards in NBA history being drafted 1st overall by the Buffalo Braves (Los Angeles Clippers) way back in 1972.
Even if injuries nagged him throughout his career, he was a complete monster when he was able to step on the court, even being a key piece in that Lakers showtime team alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and his fellow Tar Heel James Worthy before ending his NBA career in Philly just to play overseas for a couple of extra years.
3. James Worthy
Also a member of the showtime Lakers, Worthy spent his entire 12-year career in the NBA playing for the same franchise, winning three rings and even winning the Finals MVP award thanks to his outstanding performance against the Pistons in 1988.
Worthy averaged 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal on over 52% from the floor, being one of the most durable and dominant players despite being the 3rd best player in his team through most of his career.
2. Vince Carter
This guy is simply amazing. C’mon, he just is, and at age 40 he never ceases to amaze. Vince Carter is way more than just a dunker (and probably the best dunker in NBA history), with his extremely developed offensive arsenal and his ability to lead on and off the court for over 18 seasons.
The 8-time All-Star, Slam Dunk Champion, Rookie of the Year and Olympic medalist was a complete monster during his time with the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets, and let’s hope he doesn’t retire without that desired NBA ring, as few guys in today’s NBA deserve it more than him.
1. Michael Jordan
There’s absolutely no surprise here, as Michael Jordan needs to be at the top of pretty much every single list in basketball or sports, being the undisputable best player in basketball history and a guy that just can’t be compared with the rest of the human race.
The ultimate 2-way player was unstoppable on both ends of the floor, and nobody will ever achieve what he did, as we could just list his awards and we would never stop. Jordan is responsible for the league’s popularity, and he has to be held accountable for the fact that great players like Barkley, Stockton and Malone had to retire without a ring. Michael’s the best ever, and we won’t even discuss this.