Roy Williams has replaced Michael Jordan with James Worthy as Honorary Captain when the team plays Michigan State in the Carrier Classic this November. Jordan had a personal commitment that he could not get out of. Quite Frankly, it should have been Worthy all along. No disrespect to Michael Jordan but he became such an icon that he overshadowed some of his former teammates. Worthy was one of those players.
On the College level, James Worthy had a better career at Carolina than Jordan. Clearly, Jordan took it to another level in the NBA where he is virtually untouchable. But Worthy had a great NBA career as well which led to a spot on the NBA 50th anniversary team and enshrinement into the Naismith Hall of Fame. His nickname of "Big Game James" was appropriate as his playoff stats elevated over his regular season stats.
Many remember Michael Jordan knocking down the game winner in the 1982 National Championship Game against Georgetown but it was James Worthy who poured in 28 points dueling with the Hoyas Patrick Ewing. Worthy is clearly one of the greatest players ever to have played at Carolina.
His legend started early for me. Growing up in Charlotte, I remember his recruitment by Coach Smith and the Tarheels. He played basketball at Gastonia Ashbrook High School, just outside of Charlotte. When he committed to North Carolina, word spread amongst Carolina faithful that this was going to be the guy who will lead Dean Smith to his first National Championship. The buzz was so big for Worthy, that when he played in the State High School Championship in his senior season, you couldn't get a ticket to the old Charlotte Coliseum to watch the game. It was that hot of a ticket. Everyone wanted a look at this kid, Worthy.
Worthy did lead Dean Smith to his first National Championship. It has been documented that the team was so upset in losing the Championship Game to Indiana in 1981, that the returning players' total focus for 1982 was to win the National Championship to get "the monkey" off of Coach Smith's back. They put together one of the greatest season's in NCAA history up to that point enroute to cutting down the nets. Smith had been under extreme pressure to win one and Worthy and his teammates were not going to be denied.
So, in my mind, it is appropriate for "Big Game James" to be the Honorary Captain in a special event to be played on 11-11-11, aboard the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. His NBA teammate, Magic Johnson will be the Captain for Michigan State and the two will be involved in a halftime ceremony which will involve military personnel.
This video is a great profile of Worthy when he played for Carolina with guest commentary from the likes of Coach Smith, Roy Williams, Eddie Fogler, Matt Doherty and others.