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Saturday, September 5, 2009

UNC Alumni Game: Back to Blue Heaven

Posted by on Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 12:31 AM

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Michael Jordan.  Dean Smith.  Roy Williams.  Larry Brown.  Tyler Hansbrough.  George Karl.  Vince Carter.  Raymond Felton.

Every which way you looked Friday night in the Smith Center, another Tar Heel great passed before your eyes.  The night was the perfect fans' night.  The game of little importance compared to the utter glee present on every face in the building, especially during the tearful video montages celebrating UNC's 100 years of basketball.

Where to start?

For the record, the White Team, which had the majority of NBA veterans, dominated the Blue Team 113-92. Rosters can be seen here. Danny Green led all scorers with 22 points, making six 3-pointers and creating an early lead for the White Team with a fury of baskets, and Sean May (Blue Team) and Antawn Jamison (White Team) both scored 21 points.

A night full of surprises featured a bit of everything.  Chancellor Holden Thorp whispering to coveted recruit Harrison Barnes (as well as Carolina commits Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock, who sat next to him, doing the very same).  Tyler Zeller's younger brother -- Cody -- staring in awe around the Smith Center.

Carter and Antawn Jamison trash talking and going after each other the entire night.  Speaking of Carter, he flashed his famous athleticism, especially when he threw the ball off the top of the backboard to himself, slamming it through to the crowd's delight.

And then Carolina fans finally saw Felton vs. Ty Lawson -- which Felton won for the most part.  There are now thousands of pictures to prove it as everyone craned and arched necks to capture the countless moments.  In fact, many people spent more time behind their cameras than actually watching the game.

Also, the crowd chanting Julius Peppers' name as he sat on the bench dressed for the game but obviously forbidden from playing by the Carolina Panthers.  At one point near the end of the game, Peppers headed to check in but Williams sent him back to the bench knowingly.

Then there were the goose bumps.  Phil Ford calling Four Corners halfway through the first half, which seemed so out of place with the NBA players running it while the shot clock drained.  And Smith refusing to join the entire Carolina family before the game when they were honored.  Williams hustled over to drag on the court the humble Smith, who continuously pointed at the players and emphatically at Williams as though saying it wasn't him but them who built the program.

The 2009 banner unveiled at halftime with the lights dimmed.  The dunks.  The smiles.  The awkward Hansbrough interview.

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And finally, there was Jordan.  The king of basketball and the permanent king of Chapel Hill.  Jordan was honored near the end of the game for his imminent induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame and was introduced by former Chicago Bulls announcer Ray Clay with the stapled "and from North Caaaarrrooolina."

For guys like Rashad McCants, Sean May, Jamison, Carter and other NBA and pro players, the game was a chance to come back home and feel the electricity that is so lacking in professional basketball.  Back to Blue Heaven.

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