The View From The Top
In the spring of 1977, a 21 year old kid from Rocky Mount, NC walked into his head coach’s office and told the coach that he would be staying for his senior season despite his NBA prospects. In the spring of 2008, a 22 year old kid, this time from Poplar Bluff, MO, walked into that same office and told his head coach that he would be staying for his senior season despite his NBA prospects. Neither one of them made their decision based on the opportunity to become the school’s career points leader.
For over 30 years, Phil Ford held the record with 2,290 points until about 7:30pm, December 18, 2008. Phil finished his college career just months before I was born, but in watching old game footage, listening to stories my mother told me, and seeing how he carried himself and how much he loved UNC and Carolina Basketball, he became my favorite UNC player of all time. Sure the Dante Calabria’s, Eric Montross’s, Shammond Williams’s, Ed Cota’s, Vince Carter’s, and Wes Miller’s of the world came along and tried incredibly hard to become my favorite player. Then, on November 19, 2005, a scrawny 6’9″ kid from the midwest walked onto the Smith Center court and stole my heart.
Last night, Phil Ford’s journey and Tyler Hansbrough’s journey met at center court. Phil never played in the Smith Center. Tyler never played in Carmichael Auditorium. Phil was a point guard. Tyler is a power forward. Phil never dunked a basketball and didn’t have a three point line. Tyler’s hands have met the rim more often than not and he only brings the ball up the court if he steals it for a fast break. But for me, the differences end there. Both are National Players of the Year, both are fully aware of what it means to wear the Blue, and both are incredible ambassadors of UNC and Carolina Basketball. These two boys became men in Chapel Hill, NC. They both possess the same hard work and dedication needed to handle the pressure that surrounds the Carolina Basketball program. They both command respect on the court in the quiet ways they lead by example. They both earned a rock star following. And they were the only two people in the arena last night who knew how the other one felt.
The view from the top is something I can only imagine, but as I picture it in my mind, I see Phil standing up there after all this time and as Tyler reaches the summit Phil is there to extend a congratulatory hand to his brother in this wonderful fraternity and show him the sights. You will never get me to choose between the two. I just can’t pick one over the other, but I will clarify them. Phil is my favorite UNC point guard of all time and Tyler is my favorite UNC big man of all time. There will never be another Phil and there will never be another Tyler. And that is as it should be.
The above are the words of this blog’s author on the record breaking moment last night. For an even better, more qualified and articulate opinion on the event, please read Adam Lucas’s column here.