When it comes to sports nothing is better than the competition amongst rivals. Rivals are teams or individuals that strive to attain a goal that only one can possess. That goal is always to be the best, nothing more, nothing less! There are lots rivals throughout sports, but none hold a torch to the UNC vs. Duke rivalry. UNC and Duke are two programs that have been built over the years with strong foundations of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, perseverance, and just a commitment to excellence. When you mix these components with two different shades of blue and a ten minute drive up highway 15-501 you get nothing but classic games and stories that can be told for decades.
Coming from Cleveland, OH I was born in the middle of the Ohio State and Michigan rivalry, but when I arrived to Chapel Hill I realized that this UNC, Duke rivalry was much bigger than I thought and on another level compared to the OSU, Michigan rivalry. I got my first dose of the UNC Duke tension, before I even stepped foot on the UNC campus. I was selected as a McDonalds All American as a senior. The catch was that the McDonald’s game this year was going to be held on Duke’s campus at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Everyone except me knew what was in store for me when I stepped onto that campus. To make things interesting, the directors of the game decided to make Dan Ewing, the Duke recruit my roommate for the weekend. They even had microphones on us during the day and at different activities to catch the potential arguments, reality TV at its finest. I will never forget the introduction of the teams. We were announced by alphabetical order so I was last. I got to observe everyone coming out to cheers of the fans. When my name was called, my cheers were greatly combated with boos from the Duke fans. That’s when I realized things were about to get real!
There are a couple games from the Duke rivalry that I will never forget. The first game took place before I even knew I would one day be a Tar Heel. The game was at the Smith Center and and UNC roster at the time had Ed Cota, Antawn Jamison, and Vince Carter, just to name few. Antawn put on an offensive show! I remember a stat that was shown at the bottom of the TV, it read Jamsion had scored 30+ points and only had the ball in his hands for a total of 35 seconds! Carolina destroyed the blue devils from beginning to end. The best highlight of the game was a missed dunk by Vince Carter after an off the backboard alley oop attempt from Ed Cota. This game made me think, “I could see myself playing there one day”.
Arguably one of the best games I have ever been apart of and one of the greatest Carolina wins to date occurred on my senior night. A lot was on the line on this special night. It would be my last college game on the Smith Center floor, the rights to the ACC title were on the line, if we would have lost we would have to share the title with that “other school”. We were down by 9 points with 3 minutes to go, then are run began. We took the lead and won the game on offensive rebound and put back and one basket by Marvin Williams. I have never heard the Dean Dome crowd get so loud. I will never forget the underclassmen telling us seniors that there was no way that they would let us lose are last game on the Smith Center floor.
This UNC, Duke rivalry is one those games when you have to throw out records, and even playbooks. This game always come down to which team will have the will to win at the end. That’s why this rivalry is and always will be the best rivalry in all of sports!