2010 ACC Men's Basketball Legends: North Carolina, Sam Perkins
March 4, 2010
The 2010 ACC Basketball Legends class is a group of 12 former standout players - one from each ACC school - who will be honored during the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament. TheACC.com will feature two members of the ACC Legends Class each week during the six weeks prior to the tournament.
The annual ACC Legends Brunch will be held on Saturday, March 13 beginning at 10 a.m. Hosted by television personalities Tim Brant and Mike Hogewood, the ACC Men's Basketball Legends Brunch will be held in the in the Guilford Ballroom of the Sheraton Four Seasons Hotel.
Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., North Carolina men's basketball legend Sam Perkins started watching basketball on television, but didn't really get into it until he began going to the playgrounds where he saw New York street legends balling it up.
After seeing them play he really got into the sport that would shape his life.
"Every Saturday afternoon from 10 o'clock to dark I would just watch basketball because there were some good games and it was something I felt I could do," Perkins said.
Around the age of 13, Perkins was so inspired that he went home and built himself a makeshift court - complete with backboard and rim - in his own backyard to learn how to play. Things really took shape for Perkins when he mustered the courage to go down to the playgrounds and play with the older guys. Because of his size and natural ability, his progression moved along pretty fast.
Perkins began to get involved with organized basketball on the New York blacktop where he entered himself into famous neighborhood playground tournaments such as the Rucker Tournament in Harlem, N.Y.
When it was time to try out for his high school team, he didn't make the cut for the varsity squad. That only added fuel to the fire.
"I made JV but I didn't make varsity so I was determined to try and do that," Perkins said. "When I was in 11th grade things just came together. It started late but things just started coming together."
His combination of size and speed didn't go unnoticed and he started getting letters from colleges before his senior year of high school. St. John's seemed like the natural choice because of its proximity to his hometown of Brooklyn, but interest from other schools started to pick up after he went to an Olympic tryout. During that time he met his future coach and North Carolina legend Dean Smith.
"I saw all these college coaches there. Didn't know who they were or what they were, but just saw them," Perkins said. "He [Smith] passed by me and he says `good game' and that was it. Before I knew it I had a letter from North Carolina, Duke, UCLA and all these other places."
He made a number of campus visits to other universities, but his trip to Chapel Hill - with James Worthy as his host - made a lasting impression on him and made the decision to become a Tar Heel an easy one.
"I had all kinds of visits to Syracuse, Notre Dame, UCLA but that one stood out and I think I really enjoyed that the most because coach Smith kind of emphasized college at the time," Perkins said. "At the time I was pretty much trying to overcome some fears about college and studies. He came in and started talking about school and basketball where others emphasized a lot on basketball."
As a freshman in 1980-81, Perkins made an immediate impact and earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors before being named the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament MVP.
In the 1981-82 seasons, Perkins was a key part of the one of the greatest college teams ever assembled. With a star-studded cast that included future NBA Hall of Fame players Michael Jordan and James "Big Game" Worthy, the Tar Heels didn't disappoint. After winning the ACC title for the second straight year, North Carolina brought home Dean Smith his first NCAA title with a 63-62 win over Georgetown in the national championship game.
Perkins was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC his sophomore through senior seasons and still ranks near the top of many North Carolina career records. He is second all-time in rebounding (1,167) and blocked shots (245), third in most points scored (2,145) and made free throws (561), fourth in double-doubles - points and rebounds - (47) and sixth in field goals made. He also played in 115 North Carolina wins, which is good enough for third on the all-time list behind Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough.
"For four years you had different personalities, we had one goal and it was always to play together and win," Perkins said. "Coach [Smith] emphasized that and didn't treat anyone different from the other. I appreciate those four years because I got a degree and at the same time I got a chance to do some things that I enjoyed."
In 1984, Perkins earned a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team and was drafted with the fourth pick of the 1984 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He would go on to play for 17 seasons in the NBA for Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle and Indiana.
After retiring from the NBA, Perkins got a call for a job with the Indiana Pacers as the vice president of player relations where he helps players develop the skills needed to prepare them for life during, and after, their NBA careers.
"I got a call from Larry Bird and he asked me if I was willing to help him out and I said sure," Perkins said. "I was overseas at the time and I came back when I got this role. He thought it would be something I could help him with and fit right in."
In 2002, Perkins was honored for his contributions to ACC Basketball by being selected to the ACC 50th Anniversary Men's Basketball Team and in 2008 he was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.
When Perkins has free time he enjoys tapping into his artistic side by trying his hand at interior decorating and playing the guitar.
"Music has always been my medicine throughout the years, even when I played at Carolina and before that," Perkins said. "At the same time I try to decorate. I don't have a certification but it's something I like to do."