OPINION: Duke vs UNC: The rivalry that represents real life


Duke’s Gerald Henderson (15) leaves the court after being ejected for a flagrant foul on North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough during the second half of a college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, March 4, 2007. North Carolina won, 86-72. From left are assistant coaches Steve Wojciechowski and Johnny Dawkins.

Dante Centofanti

My whole life I’ve been programmed to think that the Ohio State vs Michigan is not only the best rivalry in college sports, but the best rivalry the American sports spectrum.

Football is king in Ohio, but basketball has always been the sport I’ve gravitated toward the most. Don’t get me wrong, I love football just as much as the next red-blooded American, but, as a self-proclaimed college basketball addict, the Duke-North Carolina rivalry has always been something I’ve been extremely invested in.

My introduction to the rivalry was through Wilmington, North Carolina’s own Michael Jeffrey Jordan. I would watch old VHS tapes my uncle had that were about Jordan to learn about him, and it wasn’t long until “His Royal Airness” became my favorite figure in basketball, that is until I discovered LeBron James, 6’8 superstar for the Cleveland Cavaliers who at one point breathed the same 330 air I did.

Jordan’s first iconic moment was his go-ahead outside jumper in the 1982 National Championship against Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas. I was in awe. I would try to recreate his shot in my driveway while also doing my best Gary Bender impression.

North Carolina almost became my favorite college basketball team, solely because of Jordan. But what I didn’t know, however, was that UNC hoops was a lot more than just Jordan. It’s Billy Cunningham, Vince Carter, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, and the man behind it all, coach Dean Smith. But all of these stars helped set the stage for the rivalry to end them all: Duke vs. UNC.

To me, two things make a good rivalry: animosity off the court coupled with geography, two factors that are in play every time these two teams play. To me, Duke represents all of the things I hate about some people in my generation. While Duke is without question one of the most prestigious institutions in the United States, it gives off an aura of entitlement. As someone who supports public and state education, so many private schools and colleges have this country club mantra that makes me sick.

Duke is a school that has rich kids from “preppy states” like New York, Connecticut and Vermont coming to a state of basketball royalty and suddenly thinking they are basketball experts. North Carolina basketball to me represents the good guys, the true representation of basketball wisdom in the state.

When I saw Gerald Henderson assault Tyler Hansbrough in March 2007, I wanted bust a two-by-four through the TV. Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg described my thoughts perfectly in his iconic video that was aptly titled “this is why Duke sucks”. I hate Michigan football, I really do. But if you break it down there is really no real reason to hate them outside of the gridiron.

There are real reasons to hate Duke basketball, and while this rivalry isn’t my favorite rivalry in collegiate sports, its my favorite to consume and see what infuriating moment will happen next.

Dante Centofanti is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].