Patrick Ewing explains why Michael Jordan wasn't the true hero of the Tar Heels in 1982: “We didn’t have anyone to stop him"
2023/03/17

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Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot but it was James Worthy who deprived Patrick Ewing of the 1982 NCAA title.

Former New York Knicks franchise player  had one of the most successful college basketball careers ever.

Ewing helped the Georgetown Hoyas make the NCAA title game three times during his four seasons there, including the school’s only championship during the 1983-84 season. But Ewing could have easily won a second college basketball title two years before that. Unfortunately, Michael Jordan hit a game-winning basket that left Ewing empty-handed during the 1982 NCAA men’s basketball title game.

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Many point to that game as the one where the legend of Michael Jordan was born. But while it was MJ who hit the title-clinching basket, Ewing says that the reason why the Tar Heels won the title was .

 Ewing said during his appearance on .

James Worthy Was UNC’s Top Player in 1982

The Tar Heels entered the 1981-82 season with high expectations. After losing to the Indiana Hoosiers in the title game the previous year, they returned with double-digit scorers Sam Perkins and James Worthy and were going to debut freshman.

While Jordan averaged 13.5 points per game as a freshman, it was Worthy, then a junior, who led the Tar Heels in scoring at 15.6 points per game while shooting 57.3% from the floor and averaging 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. Worthy was also named the ACC Tournament MVP after helping the Tar Heels beat the Virginia Volunteers in the Conference finals.

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Big Game James was also named the 1982 NCAA Final Four MVP and was co-winner with Ralph Sampson for the 1982 Helms Foundation Player of the Year award. He would leave UNC after winning the title and would go on to be picked first overall in the 1982 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Big Game James

While Worthy earned his nickname Big Game James when he was one of the lead stars of the Showtime Lakers’ championship teams during the 1980s, he already showed his ability to shine in big games when he was in college. Most notably, it was Worthy who shone brightest during that 1982 NCAA championship game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Georgetown Hoyas.

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Michael Jordan played well in a championship game for a freshman as he finished with 16 points on 7-13 shooting with nine rebounds. But it was Big Game James who led the Tar Heels with 28 points on 13-17 shooting with four rebounds and three steals.

Sure, that game will always be associated with MJ’s jump shot, but let’s not forget that there were still 15 seconds left on the clock when he gave the Tar Heels the lead.

Georgetown still had plenty of time to win the game but Fred Brown turned the ball over as he threw an errant pass to Worthy. Still, the game was not over. Worthy missed two free throws and the Hoyas had one last shot. But with 2 seconds left in the game, all they could muster was a desperation heave from beyond midcourt.

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