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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 21 ACC Basketball Players of All Time: Where does Michael Jordan Rank?

Top 21 ACC Basketball Players of All Time: Where does Michael Jordan Rank?

Publish Date: 03/03/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

The ACC has been the best basketball conference in America since 1940, and that should be unquestioned. The amount of National Championships attests to that. Duke and North Carolina have been dominant for decades, and programs like NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech have had their moments, also. Today we will look at the greatest players in ACC history.

21) John Lucas, Maryland Terrapins

John Lucas was a classic combo guard who dominated the offense like no Terrapin before him. He graduated with school records for assists (514, now fourth) and points (2,015, which are still sixth) while leading the program’s first two Elite Eight trips.

Video: The Lost Great: “He Just Couldn’t Stop” John Lucas’ Stunted Growth Story

The Lost Great: “He Just Couldn’t Stop” John Lucas’ Stunted Growth Story

20) Mark Price, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Price, who stands 6’1″, was a college basketball player at Georgia Tech. He was a two-time All-American and four times All ACC player. Price led the Yellow Jackets to an ACC championship in his junior year, defeating North Carolina at the ACC Tournament final game. His jersey was retired, and he was named the ACC Player-of-the-Year for the 1984-1985 season.

Video: Mark Price Shooting Skills and His Game Explained by Hubie Brown (1989.04.16)

Mark Price Shooting Skills and His Game Explained by Hubie Brown (1989.04.16)

19) Len Bias, Maryland Terrapins

Len Bias, a 6’8″ forward and devastating athlete, became the second consensus All-American from Maryland. As a senior, his 23.2 points per game is the school’s third-best season. His career record of 2,149 points stood for 16 years.

Unfortunately, Bias’ college brilliance quickly became overshadowed when he died tragically. Bias was drafted No. 2 by Larry Bird’s Celtics and fell into a cocaine overdose, eventually resulting in his death.

Video: Len Bias Maryland Highlights

Len Bias Maryland Highlights

18) Billy Cunningham, North Carolina Tar Heels

Cunningham had a remarkable career before he became a successful coach and player in the NBA. Cunningham’s 24.8 average scoring is second in school history. However, his 15.4 average rebound per game is the Carolina record holder. His 1,062 career rebound total ranks fourth in school history. His 60 double-double games (points and rebounds) are also a program record.

Cunningham’s 48-point effort against Tulane on December 10, 1964, is the Tar Heels’ second-highest-scoring game. Five of the six school’s best single-game rebounding performances were also attributed to Cunningham, the 1965 ACC Player-of-the-Year.

Video: Billy Cunningham - The Kangeroo Kid

Billy Cunningham – The Kangeroo Kid

17) Art Heyman, North Carolina Tar Heels

Heyman was a stud and averaged a double-double for his career. Heyman, a two-time All-American selection, is Duke’s career scoring average leader (25.1 ppg) and No. 4 rebounds per game (10.9). Playing in just three varsity years (Freshmen were not eligible to play back then), he is still No. 2 in free throw attempts (853) and No. 5 in made free throws (558). In his senior year, Heyman was selected for most of the 1963 national Player of the Year awards, the 1963 ACC Athlete of the Year and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award. Heyman led the Blue Devils to the 1963 Final Four, where they lost to the eventual National Champions Loyola (Chic).

Video: UNC-dook basketball fight 1961

UNC-dook basketball fight 1961

16) Tom Burleson, NC State Wolfpack

Thompson wasn’t alone on the 1973-74 ACC Championship team that played above the rim. Burleson was able to do the same, but he did it flat-footed. This is how high the Newland Needle was able to reach without having to jump. As a sophomore and junior, the three-time All-ACC selection was the leader in rebounding. He was also part of the 1972 Olympic team. Burleson holds the distinction of having played the best single game of the ACC Tournament’s history. He scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds against Maryland in the 1974 championship match. This earned him his second consecutive Case Award for the MVP of the ACC Tournament. Eddie Biedenbach was Burleson’s former assistant coach. He said that Tommy had the unique ability to play with the best players across the country. “The Maryland game was just a matter of Tommy’s unmatched competitiveness against Len Elmore. He played better than anyone I’ve ever seen in that match.

Video: ACC Kings of the Court | Tommy Burleson | ACCDigitalNetwork

ACC Kings of the Court | Tommy Burleson | ACCDigitalNetwork

15) Danny ferry, Duke Blue Devils

Ferry was instrumental in taking the Blue Devils to three Final Fours while at Duke. Ferry was the only player to finish his career in the top 10 in all three categories, finishing 6th in career points (2.155), 7th in career rebounds (1.003), and 7th in career assists (506). Ferry was the ACC Player and ACC Athlete of the year, respectively, in his junior and senior years. He was also a consensus All-American selection. Ferry was a senior and won the majority of the national Player-of-the-Year awards. Like Battier, Danny was a great team player who spent much of his time chasing down loose balls on the floor. Ferry was a winner.

Video: Duke Great Danny Ferry Scores 58 Points

Duke Great Danny Ferry Scores 58 Points

14) Len Rosenbluth, North Carolina Tar Heels

Rosenbluth was the reason North Carolina won its first National Title in 1957. He was named the national player of the year in 1957, scoring 28.0 points to set a school record for single-season scores (897) and 8.8 rebounds with Frank McGuire’s 32-0 Tar Heels. Rosenbluth’s three seasons in North Carolina saw him average a school record 26.9 points, and his 2,047 points rank fourth among school history.

Video: GoHeelsTV: Lennie Rosenbluth Returns to Municipal Auditorium

GoHeelsTV: Lennie Rosenbluth Returns to Municipal Auditorium

13) Michael Jordan, North Carolina Tar Heels

Although Michael Jordan’s average career points scored are not as high as some other men on this list, his defensive skills and clutch shooting abilities made him a top choice. Jordan helped UNC win the 1982 NCAA Championship. Jordan was named consensus All-American twice and named the National Collegiate Player Award of the Year in 1984.

Video: Michael Jordan: NCAA tournament highlights, top plays

Michael Jordan: NCAA tournament highlights, top plays

12) James Worthy, North Carolina Tar Heels

Worthy scored 15.6 points per game during the 1981-82 season. The Tar Heels won their second-ever national championship. Worthy was an All-American that year and was awarded the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award in 1982. Worthy’s freshman season was cut short by an injury. He scored 1,219 points (4.5), 620 rebounds (7.4) and 208 assists (2.5), as well as 117 steals (1.4) and 94 blocks (1.1) for his college career. The school retired Worthy’s number 52.

Video: NBA Legends And Players Explain How SCARY GOOD PRIME James Worthy Was

NBA Legends And Players Explain How SCARY GOOD PRIME James Worthy Was

11) Bobby Hurley, Duke Blue Devils

A fellow ACC legend, Bobby Hurley had average per-game statistics that weren’t as impressive as some. But he was a skilled leader, and able to make sure his teammates played their best basketball. He is the NCAA’s career assists leader, and his two consecutive championships at Duke put him in the top company. Hurley was an All-ACC selection three times and was the NCAA Tournament’s best player in 1992.

Video: Bobby Hurley highlights - Best Duke PG ever!

Bobby Hurley highlights – Best Duke PG ever!

10) Grant Hill, Duke Blue Devils

Hill was instrumental in helping the Blue Devils win NCAA championships in 1991 and 1992. He also led Duke to the 1994 championship game. Hill was an offensive and defensive player. You may also remember the dunk in 1991’s Championship game. He was awarded the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) top defensive player award in 1993 and 1994.

Video: Grant Hill Duke Highlights | ACC Icon

Grant Hill Duke Highlights | ACC Icon

9) Charlie Scott, North Carolina Tar Heels

Scott was one of the most outstanding basketball players from Harlem. He put that flair and style to good use at North Carolina. Scott, a Tar Heel three-time first-team All-ACC selection, was fourth in school history with 22.1 points per game and sixth in scoring (6,007).  Scott ranks among North Carolina’s top five for made field goals (805)

Video: Tar Heel legend Charlie Scott on racism, trailblazing, Dean Smith and why he chose UNC

Tar Heel legend Charlie Scott on racism, trailblazing, Dean Smith and why he chose UNC

8) Larry Miller, North Carolina Tar Heels

Miller, a two-time ACC Player Of The Year, ranks fifth in school history. He has a 21.8 average scoring. Miller’s 1,982 career points rank seventh among Tar Heels. The Allentown, Pa. native made 19 free throws against Oregon State on December 30, 1967, tied for third in the most consecutive games at North Carolina. Miller was part of the ACC’s 50th-anniversary men’s basketball team in 2002.

Video: The 40 Club Podcast: It's Larry Miller Time

The 40 Club Podcast: It’s Larry Miller Time

7) Phil Ford, North Carolina Tar Heels

Dean Smith’s “Four-Corners,” offense was Ford’s living embodiment. He was the best ball handler in America. Many still consider him the most outstanding college point guard of all time. Ford was Chapel Hill’s all-time leading scorer at 2,290 points when he finished his career. This mark would be broken later by Tyler Hansbrough. Ford was also the first ACC player to score at least 2,000 points. He also had 600 assists. North Carolina won two ACC championships with Ford as a point guard. He was a consensus All-American in 1976, 1977 and 1978 and was part of the U.S. Gold Medal Basketball team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Video: ACC Kings of the Court | Phil Ford | ACCDigitalNetwork

ACC Kings of the Court | Phil Ford | ACCDigitalNetwork

6) Ralph Sampson, Virginia Cavaliers

You can see by his awards to show how dominant Ralph Sampson was in his four years at Virginia. The 7-foot-4-inch giant was named National Collegiate Play of the Year for three incredible seasons from 1981-1983. This tie the all-time record. Sampson was also a consensus All-American selection three times, thanks to his incredible career average of 3.5 blocks per match. He ranks fifth among all players since 1973 with 1,511 career rebounds.

Video: March Madness Rewind: Ralph Sampson (19pts/13rebs/4blks) Sends Virginia to Sweet Sixteen (1983)

March Madness Rewind: Ralph Sampson (19pts/13rebs/4blks) Sends Virginia to Sweet Sixteen (1983)

5) Len Chappel, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Chappell, a 6’8″ power forward/center was a star at Wake Forest University. He was a teammate with future broadcaster Billy Packer and helped the Demon Deacons to a third-place finish in the 1962 NCAA tournament. He was also named ACC Men’s Basketball player of the year in 1961 and 1962. In 1962, he was Wake Forest’s first consensus All-American. He was the ACC tournament’s most prolific scorer until Duke University’s J. In 2006, J. Redick surpassed his feat.

Video: Remembering Len Chappell

Remembering Len Chappell

4) Tim Duncan, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

No National Championship hurts Duncan, but he was a dominant force in the mid-90s. The Big Fundamental was a college basketball player who played and became one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Tim Duncan was able to lead Wake Forest to the NCAA tournament every season in which he played. He also averaged a career double-double. He was a three-time All-ACC Selection, two-time ACC Player-of-the-Year, consensus All-American, and National Collegiate Player-of-the-Year in 1997. Duncan had a fantastic 29 double-doubles in the 31 games he played that season. His 1,570 career rebounds are the second-most by anyone since 1973.

Video: Tim Duncan highlights: NCAA tournament top plays

Tim Duncan highlights: NCAA tournament top plays

3) Christian Laettner, Duke Blue Devils

Laettner started in four straight final fours at Duke and won the last two. Laettner is considered a bust because of his NBA career, but he was one of the most accomplished players in College Basketball history. Nobody was better at hitting a clutch game-winning shot; if you don’t believe me, ask Kentucky fans.

Video: Christian Laettner hits THE SHOT

Christian Laettner hits THE SHOT

2) Tyler Hansborough, North Carolina Tar Heels

Hansbrough is considered one of the greatest college basketball of all time. Hansbrough has the most points scored in North Carolina basketball history (2,872) and has pulled down more rebounds (1 219) than any other player. Hansbrough also holds the school’s record for making field goals (939), free throws (982) and double-figure scoring games (138). Hansbrough averaged 20.2 points per game and 8.6 career rebounds. He was also the first ACC player named first-team All-Conference four times. He won the 2007-08 national player of the year award and helped the Tar Heels win their 2009 national championship.

Video: Tyler Hansbrough Dunk on 7'7 Kenny George

Tyler Hansbrough Dunk on 7’7 Kenny George

1) David Thompson, NC State Wolfpack

Thompson was unstoppable. He was the state’s leader to a 79-7 record overall and the national title. He averaged 27 points per game. His defense was unmatched over three seasons. If NC State had been allowed in the 73 tournament they would have ended UCLA’s dominance then.

Video: David Thompson - NC State Hall of Fame

David Thompson – NC State Hall of Fame

Honorable Mentions

Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech

Stephon Marbury, Georgia Tech

Elton Brand, Duke

Antwan Jamison, North Carolina

Dick Hemric, Wake Forest

Johnny Dawkins, Duke

Joe Smith, Maryland

Chris Paul, Wake Forest

Juan Dixon, Maryland

Jay Williams, Duke

Shane battier, Duke

JJ Reddick, Duke

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