Basketball fans know Patrick Ewing played college ball at Georgetown, and Michael Jordan was a Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina. If things had worked out differently, the eventual Hall of Famers may have been teammates in college. Here’s the story of how Ewing almost attended UNC — until he saw something he didn’t like while visiting the campus.
Patrick Ewing considers UNC
A highly coveted recruit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ewing was courted by many schools. The now-56-year-old told radio host Dan Patrick that he was “close” to agreeing to attend UNC because it was “a very good school.” But the basketball center’s enthusiasm waned when he visited the Chapel Hill, North Carolina campus.
The KKK scares Ewing away
The school hosted Ewing at the Carolina Inn during his visit. While staying at the hotel, the future NBA Rookie of the Year says the Ku Klux Klan was having a “big rally” in the state. When Ewing realized this, he said to himself, “You know what? I’m not coming down here. I’m staying my butt in Boston.”
While this was the main reason Ewing decided not to attend UNC, he also heard the sounds of crickets at night, which spooked him. He didn’t like hearing the insects while it was dark outside.
A potential UNC team with Ewing and Michael Jordan
So the question becomes how good would the Tar Heels have been if Ewing and Jordan were teammates? Both were freshmen in the 1981-82 season. Plus, the team had another future NBA player Sam Perkins — a sophomore that season — on the squad as the go-to big man.
Would a freshman Ewing have been good enough to overtake him as the starter? Or would Ewing have been more of a role player, losing time on the court with Jordan? What we do know: UNC won the championship that season, beating Ewing’s Hoyas in the final.
If Ewing played for UNC instead of Georgetown, the victor would likely be the same. The future New York Knick, of course, won a championship of his own with Georgetown during his junior year. In his four college basketball seasons, he averaged 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Ewing and Jordan finally team up
In addition to playing together on Eastern Conference All-Star teams, the two NBA greats were teammates on the Team USA “Dream Team” at the 1992 Summer Olympics, easily winning the gold in Barcelona. Two decades later, Jordan and Ewing ended up on the same team again.
In 2013, Ewing became an assistant coach — and interim head coach when Steve Clifford had heart surgery — for the then-Charlotte Bobcats. By that time, Jordan was the majority owner of the franchise. Ewing served as an assistant for the Bobcats/Hornets until becoming head coaching position at his alma mater in 2017.