I was lucky enough to be in attendance on September 4th 2009 at UNCs one of a kind alumni game. The game held at the Dean Smith Center was the first part of the basketball program’s 100 year anniversary celebration.
The game couldn’t have come at a better time fresh off its 2009 national championship. The stage was set for a truly one of a kind night, and fans were not disappointed. First the university showed its class and dedication to its fan base by offering tickets for only $20. An extremely cheap ticket, despite the star studded lineup and once in a lifetime celebrations. This said to me that the game wasn’t about raising money, it wasn’t a marketing ploy by the university, and it was an event meant to celebrate the program with those that made it so great. This Roy Williams quote sums it up great:
“This is a unique place,” Williams said of UNC. “There aren’t many schools on that level that can have the tradition and history that we have, the family atmosphere that we have and have people that care desperately about what happens [in the program]. I wanted it to be a year-long celebration. I didn’t want just to have a reunion and say, `Here it is, this is 100 years of North Carolina Basketball.’ That’s why we’re going to have the pro alumni game in late summer and the full reunion during the course of the season. I’m really excited about what’s going to happen.”
Next warm ups were colorful with plenty of Vince Carter dunks, player interviews played for the entire stadium to hear. As tipoff got closer and closer UNC all time greats started popping up in the crowd, so many former players attended the game they took up about 20% of the Dean Dome. From Michael Jordan to James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Billy Cunningham and of course coaching legends Dean Smith, Bill Gutheridge and current coach Roy Williams just to name a few.
The lineup was a dream come true with only Rasheed Wallace out of the lineup who was a last minute pullout. The game featured some of the very best to ever wear Carolina blue. Check out the rosters:
Even NFL star Julius Peppers dressed for the game and took part in warm-ups even though he couldn’t play in the game due to his NFL obligations.
Halftime and postgame were probably better than the actual game itself. Make no mistake the game was good, this wasn’t your usual NBA type All-Star game. Coached by former Tar Heels George Karl and Larry Brown the teams got at each other on both ends of the floor. There were several eye popping dunks including a couple very impressive slams by Vince Carter. Still the game itself wasn’t the highlight of the night.
Halftime featured speeches by Dean Smith and Michael Jordan among others. A banner was unveiled in honor of Jordan and all other UNC Tar Heel members of the basketball hall of fame. This was a surprise by the university as not even Jordan himself seemed to know about it. The Dean Dome erupted when former coach Dean Smith took center court and it didn’t seem like it would ever stop and I thought it had to be the loudest, longest standing ovation in sports history. Then Jordan took the mic, the only way to describe the moment is by saying that it cannot be described you just had to be there it was that magical of a moment.
Still halftime wasn’t the best part. In what seemed like a family reunion the university decided to drop the banner for the team’s 2009 national championship. The entire 2009 roster was there to accept their rings and pose for pictures with the Tar Heel all time greats.
I’ve been to many, many sporting events in my life. I saw Michael Jordan’s last NBA game’s of his career. I’ve seen Jordan drop 40 and even 50 points on a couple occasions. I’ve been to Philadelphia to watch an Eagles playoff game. I’ve been to World Series games, NBA Finals, even some big time college rivalry games. Still through all my experiences it was apparent and hit me the minute I sat in my seat that this was the most unique, once in a lifetime games that I will one day tell my grand children about. It was simply the greatest show of unity there ever was and ever will be in team sports and it makes me proud to be a Tar Heel.