The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill has produced some of the NBA’s best players, including the one widely considered by most as the greatest of all-time in Michael Jordan.
In the history of the NBA draft, UNC has produced a total of two #1 overall picks and 52 first-round draft picks. 16 Tar Heels have made the All-Star team and 16 have also won an NBA championship. Led by MJ, a total of five of them have been enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Let’s take a look at the top University of North Carolina products who ever played in the NBA:
1. Michael Jordan
The major turning point of Michael Jordan’s basketball career was when he made the game-winning basket during the 1982 NCAA Championship game. After being named College Player of the Year during his third season at UNC, Jordan decided to skip his final year and enter the NBA draft.
He was picked third overall by the Chicago Bulls and he transformed the team into a dynasty during his legendary career. Jordan helped the Bulls win a total of six NBA titles. He won five NBA MVPs, six Finals MVP was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, and was named to 10 All-NBA First team selections. MJ led the league in scoring during 10 seasons, including seven straight from 1987-1993.
2. James Worthy
James Worthy led the Tar Heels to a runner-up finish in the 1981 NCAA Tournament. Worthy was UNC’s leading scorer in 1982 and although Michael Jordan hit the title-clinching basket, Worthy stole the ball from Fred Brown in the Hoyas’ final play to seal the victory for the Tar Heels. For his Tournament-long brilliance, Big Game James was named as Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
Worthy was drafted 1st overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982. He joined Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar in leading the Showtime Lakers to three NBA titles. Worthy was the Finals MVP in 1988 when the Lakers won back to back titles.
3. Bob McAdoo
Bob McAdoo was the only junior college player that Dean Smith ever recruited in his career. He led the 1971-72 Tar Heels to a 25-6 record and a trip to the Final Four. McAdoo was named ACC Tournament MVP that year and he was also selected as a First Team All-American.
McAdoo was drafted by the Buffalo Braves with the #2 pick of the 1972 NBA Draft. He was an All-Star from 1974-78, the NBA’s scoring leader from 1974-1976, and was the NBA’s MVP in 1975. He joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 and won two NBA titles playing with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
4. Billy Cunningham
Billy Cunningham was the team captain of the 1965 Tar Heels. He was the ACC Player of the Year and a Second Team All-American that season. Upon his graduation, he set the UNC record for career rebounds, most rebounds in one season, and the best rebounding average.
Cunningham was selected 5th overall in the 1965 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was a member of the Sixers’ 1967 NBA championship team that included Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, and Chet Walker. After Wilt left in 1968, he became the Sixers’ franchise player and would earn four All-Star selections and three All-NBA selections during that period. He joined the ABA in 1972 and was named ABA MVP in 1973.
5. Brad Daugherty
Brad Daugherty was one of the best big men ever to play at the University of North Carolina. He was a two-time All-ACC First Team selection and a Second Team All-American in 1986. Daugherty averaged over 20 points per game during his senior season at UNC.
He was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1986 and although his NBA career ended due to injuries, he established himself as one of the most dominant centers during his era. He was a five-time All-Star and an All-NBA Third Team selection in 1992. Daugherty led the Cavs to five playoff appearances.
6. Walter Davis
Walter Davis was a standout at UNC and he was chosen to play in Dean Smith’s U.S. men’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympic games. He was known as “Sweet D” because of his smooth style of play and his ability to play tough defense.
Davis was the Phoenix Suns’ 5th overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft. After he was named Rookie of the Year in 1978, Davis went on to become a six-time NBA All-Star and a two-time member of the All-NBA Second Team. He is the Suns’ all-time leading scorer at 15,666 career points.
7. Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones grew up in North Carolina and ended up playing for Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina. Jones was drafted by the Carolina Cougars of the NBA but he elected to return to UNC and finish his psychology degree. He was named as First Team All-American during his senior season with the Tar Heels.
The Houston Rockets picked Jones 5th overall in the 1974 NBA Draft but the Denver Nuggets outbid the Rockets for Jones’ services. He was one of the league’s premier defenders and was named to the All-NBA Defensive First team eight times. Jones was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year when he helped the Sixers win the 1983 NBA championship.
8. Vince Carter
Vince Carter played three seasons at Chapel Hill under Dean Smith and later, Bill Guthridge. Carter led the Tar Heels to back to back Final Four appearances and was a Second Team All-American member in 1998. After teammate Antawn Jamison declared for the 1998 NBA Draft, Carter followed.
Carter was selected 5th overall by the Golden State Warriors but he was traded on draft day for Jamison who was picked 4th overall by the Toronto Raptors. Carter was named as 1998 Rookie of the Year and he won the Slam Dunk contest during his second season. He made back to back All-NBA team appearances in 2000 and 2001. Carter is the only player in NBA history to play in four different decades. He was the oldest player in the NBA during the 2019-20 season.
9. Rick Fox
Rick Fox led the University of North Carolina to the 1991 NCAA title while winning ACC Tournament MVP honors that season. Fox applied for the NBA Draft in 1991 and he was selected 24th overall by the Boston Celtics where he became the first rookie to start on the teams since Larry Bird.
Fox signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1997 and he was a member of the Lakers team which won three straight NBA titles from 2000-02. Fox gave up his starting job to Glen Rice in 1999 but was still a key contributor to the Lakers. With Rice gone the following season, Fox started all playoff games as the Lakers swept through the Western Conference during the 2001 season.
10. Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison was Vince Carter’s teammate at UNC and he played three seasons for the Tar Heels. Jamison was named the Naismith College Player of the Year during his junior season. Although he left UNC after his junior year, he later returned to finish his degree.
Jamison was traded on draft night for Carter and he would go on to make the All-Rookie team in 1999. He played his first five NBA seasons with the Golden State Warriors before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2003. He was on the move the following year to Washington where he played his best years. Jamison was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2004 and a two-time NBA All-Star.
11. Jerry Stackhouse
Jerry Stackhouse played with future NBA stars Rasheed Wallace, Jeff McInnis, and Shammond Williams in Chapel Hill. Stackhouse was ACC Tournament MVP in 1994 and he led the Tar Heels to the Final Four and was a consensus First Team All-American in 1995.
He was drafted 3rd overall in 1995 by the Philadelphia 76ers and was named to the All-Rookie team in 1996. Stackhouse was traded to the Detroit Pistons midway through the 1998 season and he led the NBA in total points scored that season, and finished second to Allen Iverson in scoring average. Stackhouse also played for the Wizards, Mavericks, Bucks, Hawks, and Brooklyn Nets.