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James Worthy on North Carolina's 1982 NCAA title

The 30th anniversary of one of college basketball’s landmark games has arrived.

Three years after Magic Johnson beat Larry Bird, and a year before North Carolina State shocked Houston, North Carolina in 1982 edged Georgetown, 63-62, in a riveting championship game.

It was Michael Jordan's first of many clutch performances, Coach Dean Smith's first title. And James Worthy capped a most-outstanding-player tournament by scoring 28 points and gladly accepting a game-clinching mistaken pass by Georgetown’s Fred Brown in the final seconds.

After winning three NBA titles with the Lakers in the 1980s, Worthy, 51, is back at the site of his heroics at New Orleans’ Superdome for an Allstate promotion at the Final Four, with Kentucky Coach John Calipari trying to win his first national title Monday night against Kansas.

Can you believe it’s been 30 years since the Georgetown game? You can make the case that your game was the best among those three classics in five years.

"I’ve not only lost my hair, I’ve lost my beard. What a great anniversary it is. Coach Smith getting his first. Versus John Thompson. In the dome. I’d vote for it [as greatest], given the circumstances of who played in that game, the fact that we had lost to Bob Knight and Indiana the year before. Myself going against my high school rival from Gastonia, N.C., “Sleepy” Floyd. Playing that deep Georgetown team with Patrick Ewing. Big game going in, back and forth all the way, and the way it ended with Michael’s big shot and that pass.”

What specific memories do you take from that game?

"Georgetown was relentless. They were intent to make us crack with their defense, and they nearly did. There was a point they had gone up three or four, and back then that was a big number. So [North Carolina’s] Jimmy Black misses a layup and Michael flies in and tips it back in — an ‘Ice’ Gervin, finger-roll tip-in over Ewing. I might have been the outstanding player, but Michael Jordan emerged from the ACC tournament on that year. To watch him say, ‘This is my ball, this is my court’ was amazing.”

And then it ends with the surprise Fred Brown pass to you. What were you thinking? Have you spoken to Brown since?

"He picked up his dribble and then in panic, I think, he thought I was on his team and passed to me. There was a delayed reaction by me. I thought the play had stopped, that there was a timeout.… Once I realized he made a mistake, all I could do was dribble. I knew there was a little time left on the clock. I concentrated not on myself or the team, but on the fact it was Coach Smith’s first title, that we’d finally gotten him one. [Regarding Brown], ESPN did a thing on it, how he shouldn’t be entirely blamed, and that’s right. But my rookie year [with the Lakers] we flew in to Washington to play the Bullets and stayed 10 minutes from Georgetown. We actually practiced at Georgetown. I walked in through these big swinging doors toward the gym, and there’s Fred Brown. We didn’t even speak then. And we’ve never had a beer on it.”

What are your thoughts on this year’s final?

"Kentucky’s to win. They could beat a couple of NBA teams. Great team, and they have an attitude. [I thought] if anyone could figure it out, it’s [Louisville’s] Rick Pitino. That center [Anthony Davis] certainly knows how to play his position, and I know Michael Jordan [now the Charlotte Bobcatsowner] is licking his chops to draft this kid.”

What’s the common denominator you usually see in an NCAA champion?

"Longevity, consistency, how they handle adversity. The great teams don’t dwell on it, they get right back in your face. That’s the key. The attitude can be more important than the talent. The teams that get in each other’s faces, that argue and monitor each other. Kentucky has that, and with Calipari going for his first, he has a great chance.”

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Highlighting James Worthy's memorable moments at North Carolina

This Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., former Lakers forward James Worthy will be among those being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Below is a look at some of his memorable moments during his storied three-year career at North Carolina (1979-1982).

1. Worthy experiences early adversity. Enthusiasm regarding his freshman year evaporated when he slipped on a wet spot on the Carmichael Auditorium floor and broke his ankle. The injury forced him to miss the last 14 games of the season and cast serious doubt about the rest of his career.

2. Worthy bounces back from injury. Instead of allowing the injury to hurt his development, Worthy emerged as a sophomore, averaging 14.2 points (on 50% shooting) and 8.2 rebounds per game en route to the 1981 national championship game against Indiana.

3. Worthy won Final Four MVP. Despite being on a team that featured Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, Worthy managed to win this award after UNC won the 1982 national title game against Georgetown. Highlights of the 1982 national championship game between North Carolina and Georgetown often feature Worthy making a signature steal from Hoyas point guard Fred Brown and a tip dunk over Georgetown center Patrick Ewing, which capped a 28-point performance on 13-of-17 shooting that earned him the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award.

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Worthy To Be Inducted In College Hoops Hall
One of just eight UNC players to have his jersey retired, Worthy led the Tar Heels to two Final Four appearances. Coach Dean Smith’s team won the NCAA championship in 1982 over Georgetown behind Worthy’s 28 points on 13 for 17 shooting from the field. The NCAA title capped a superb final season for the junior forward at Carolina as he was a unanimous first team All-America and the most outstanding player in the ACC Tournament, the NCAA Regional and the Final Four. Worthy, who also won the McKevlin Award as the Athlete of the Year in the ACC.
Worthy helped lead UNC to the national championship game against Indiana as a sophomore in 1981 as he averaged 14.2 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and had a 50.0 percent field goal percentage after missing much of his freshman season with a broken ankle.

Worthy To Be Inducted In College Hoops Hall

One of just eight UNC players to have his jersey retired, Worthy led the Tar Heels to two Final Four appearances. Coach Dean Smith’s team won the NCAA championship in 1982 over Georgetown behind Worthy’s 28 points on 13 for 17 shooting from the field. The NCAA title capped a superb final season for the junior forward at Carolina as he was a unanimous first team All-America and the most outstanding player in the ACC Tournament, the NCAA Regional and the Final Four. Worthy, who also won the McKevlin Award as the Athlete of the Year in the ACC.

Worthy helped lead UNC to the national championship game against Indiana as a sophomore in 1981 as he averaged 14.2 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and had a 50.0 percent field goal percentage after missing much of his freshman season with a broken ankle.

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Worthy to serve as captain for Tar Heels game on air craft carrier

North Carolina coach Roy Williams says James Worthy will replace Michael Jordan as honorary captain when the Tar Heels face Michigan State in the Carrier Classic on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11.

Williams says Jordan has a personal commitment he can’t get out of.

Magic Johnson will serve as honorary captain for the Spartans.

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