James Worthy, Tar Heels champion, retired legend and single father, watched the game at home in Los Angeles.
"It's the most dominant Carolina team I've ever seen in a Final Four," said the three-time NBA champion, Basketball Hall of Famer and North Carolina forward for the 1982 -- oh, come on, you know -- title team. "Ty Lawson will run up your chest like Tiny Archibald used to do and Tyler Hansbrough has the tenacity of Dave Cowens."
Impressive thoughts coming from one of the greatest players in North Carolina or Los Angeles Lakers history.
|Worthy says Hansbrough and Perkins are strong rebounders who can run the floor. (Getty Images)|
The 1982 Final Four was a treasure chest of college basketball. The four teams were Louisville, Houston, Georgetown and Carolina, all with household names. The Tar Heel names were Worthy and Jordan and Sam Perkins. The Tar Heel coaches were Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, Ed Fogler and Roy Williams. And the goals of that team were exactly the same as the champions who were crowned on Monday night.
"We'd lost the year before to Indiana," said Worthy, who was then a sophomore, while Jordan hadn't even arrived. "Just like this year's team [which lost to Kansas in the 2008 semifinals], we all made the commitment to win it the next year."
Everyone remembers "The Shot" by Jordan along the left baseline in front of a then record 61,612 fans at the Superdome, but Worthy said it was only equal to another Jordan shot, one that Jordan himself couldn't believe.
"With around three-and-a-half minutes left, Michael went in for a driving layup and realized he couldn't get it over Patrick [Ewing]," said Worthy, "so he switched to his left hand and laid it in. You know, he wasn't Michael Jordan then [the 1982 press guide called him Mike]. Even he couldn't believe he did it."
The turning-point layup gave Carolina a 61-58 lead, which led to the 63-62 Tar Heel win. "Big Game James" was named MOP (Most Outstanding Player) of the NCAA tournament and left that year for the Lakers, where he was later reunited with Perkins.
"Sam and Tyler Hansbrough are an interesting discussion," Worthy said. "They're both strong rebounders. Sam was always fundamentally sound, and he always had that pro inside game, while Tyler is more rugged, tenacious on the boards. Both could run the floor. I see Tyler maybe playing some 3 in the pros, although he'll defend at a 4. He has the work ethic and the discipline to make it in the NBA. I'm not saying he'll be an All-Star but he has the potential to rebound like AC Green."
With this year's collection of NBA talent, Carolina won every tournament game by double digits -- which hadn't happened since Duke in 2001, and that Blue Devils team is considered one of the greatest of all time. The Tar Heels' 89-72 blowout of Michigan State, breaking the 42-year-old title game record for biggest lead at halftime and setting the mark for most points at the half, moves this year's team into the paragraph (aren't we already sick of "the conversation") of greatest Carolina team ever.
"Well, I can't be objective about that," Worthy said, "but I'd say they're in the sentence."
Carolina's fifth national title will probably move ahead of the 2005 version, which featured Sean May, Marvin Williams and Rashad McCants in Roy Williams' second year. That team was more of a wonderful surprise to Tar Heel fans.
The 1993 champion didn't have superstars, either, but George Lynch, Donald Williams and Eric Montross won a second title for Smith. Then there is the undefeated 32-0 national champion team that beat Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in triple overtime. Wilt took only 13 shots in the game where legendary coach Frank McGuire sent 5-11 Tommy Kearns to jump center against Chamberlain, demonstrating they had no fear.
"It's really something to play for Carolina," said Worthy, who keeps his title ring in a safe. "We play for the tradition, the history and the legacy, much more than for wearing a ring."
Roy Williams now has two titles, just like Dean Smith. On being compared to one of the cornerstones of college basketball, Williams said, "I'm not trying to be overly humble, but I don't belong in a discussion with Dean Smith."
So what does Worthy think?
"I'd have to agree with Roy," he said with a smile.