01/30/04 — The Tar Heel Top 10

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The Tar Heel Top 10

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on January 30, 2004 2:00 PM

The waiting, predicting and nail-biting will soon be over.

It will be one of the most important sporting events in North Carolina history if the Panthers beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. To many, Carolina getting there already is on the short list.

Where would the Panthers' win in the Super Bowl place among the elite moments in state sports history?

It was tougher than I thought it was going to be, but I made my Top Ten list of Carolina sports moments (so far).

On a day where optimism reigns supreme, along with gaudy commercialism, I am picking Carolina to win. So, I'm thinking my number one spot will change.

1. Michael Jordan's shot takes out Georgetown -- The visual beginning of an amazing career propelled a storied program even farther into the state's sports psyche in 1982's final. It's not number one just because of '82, but how it links arguably the greatest player and coach of all time.

2. Cardiac Pack wins '83 title -- The award for best image is Lorenzo Charles' dunk to upset Houston's Phi-Slamma-Jamma to win it all, and Jim Valvano's subsequent frantic run around the court looking for someone to hug. The definition of March Madness.

3. Dean Smith passes Adolph Rupp with 877 career wins -- With 13 ACC titles and two national titles, Smith still holds the wins record following the Heels defeat of Colorado 73-56 in the in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.

4. Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500 -- North Carolinians and race fans everywhere mourned when the final lap at Daytona proved to be the last for the legendary "Intimidator." Before his death, he won seven Winston Cup championships. He is still the embodiment of NASCAR.

5. The rise -- fall -- then resurrection of the NBA in Charlotte -- So far, a roller-coaster ride with extreme highs and lows. Not near as much pre-Bobcat fan fever as the early Hornet years, but it seems like the franchise is in much better hands.

6. Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater beats Kentucky -- Duke marches to second straight national title in '92 -- two games after the dramatic pass from Grant Hill to Laettner. Coach K's "living legend" status seems to stem from this moment.

7. Richard Petty dominates the '70's -- "The King" took the 1979 points lead at Rockingham and held on to win his fifth Winston Cup title of the decade. NASCAR surges to new economic heights in the next two decades.

8. The 1992 North Carolina women's soccer team -- Arguably, the greatest team in the history of women's collegiate soccer. Led by Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, the Heels rolled off a 25-0 record and one of their 18 national championships.

9. The U.S. Open comes to Pinehurst in 1999 -- North Carolina's most popular golfing community hosts the U.S. Open for the first time with the late Payne Stewart winning his final major. The Open comes back in 2005.

10. The Hurricanes' run to the Stanley Cup in 2002 -- Peaked fan interest and brought the NHL into many homes across the state during the playoff run. "We" had a hockey team, and they came pretty close to winning one of the most coveted prizes in all of pro sports.

Honorable mention

11. The ACC is formed in 1953 -- Officially June 14, 1953 in Raleigh. 82 national team championships later, the conference is still dominant and continues to grow. The latest expansion of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College makes the conference a strong football power.

12. Wallace-Wade Stadium hosts the Rose Bowl in 1942 -- After the Japenese bombing of Pearl Harbor, large crowds were banned on the West Coast. Duke hosted the game and eventually fell 20-16 to Oregon State in the only time the Bowl has been played outside of Pasadena.