During periods of both ascendancy and mediocrity, individual North Carolina players of exceptional ability have received various accolades. In total, Tar Heels have been named to an All-America team 83 times, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference team 138 times, and an All-Southern Conference team 34 times. Of the All-America selections, thiry-seven players received first-team honors a total of fifty-eight times. Sixteen players were named consensus first-team All-Americans a total of twenty-five times.
Each year, numerous publications and organizations release lists of All-America teams, hypothetical rosters of players considered the best in the nation at their respective positions. Some selecting organizations choose more than one roster of All-Americans, in which case they use the terms "first team", "second team", and "third team" as appropriate. Some selectors also award honorable mentions to outstanding players who did not make any of their teams.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a college sports governing body, uses officially recognized All-America selectors to determine the "consensus" selections. To earn "consensus" status, a player must win honors based on a point system computed from the four different all-America teams. The point system consists of three points for first team, two points for second team and one point for third team. No honorable mention or fourth team or lower are used in the computation. The top five totals plus ties are first team and the next five plus ties are second team. Over time, the sources used to determine the consensus selections have changed, and since 1997, the NCAA has used these selectors to determine consensus All-Americans: Associated Press (AP), the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), the Sporting News (TSN), and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
In 1923, Cartwright Carmichael was selected to the Helms first team, which made him the first North Carolina player to be named an All-American. In addition, Carmichael became the first Tar Heel first consensus All-American. Carmichael was also named a consensus All-American in 1924, which made him the first of seven North Carolina player to receive the honor twice. Of those seven players, Jack Cobb and Tyler Hansbrough are the only Tar Heels players to achieve consensus First-team All America honors three times in their collegiate career. Fifteen other Tar Heels have earned consensus First-team All-America honors twenty-three times throughout the program's history.
Consensus First-team selection
Consensus Second-team selection
For a guide to the abbreviations used, see the glossary.
Just as the media recognizes the nation's best players with All-America lists, individual athletic conferences honor their best players with "all-conference" selections. In 1921, North Carolina joined the Southern Conference (SoCon). A year later, Cartwright Carmichael and Monk McDonald became the first Tar Heels named to an All-Southern Conference team. North Carolina was a member of the league from 1921 to 1953, and twenty-two Tar Heels received All-Southern Conference honors a total of thirty-four times.
After the 1952 season, North Carolina and six other schools left the Southern Conference to form the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The following year, the conference honored its inaugural season's best players with an All-ACC team. In that initial class, one Tar Heel, Jerry Vayda, was selected to the second team. Since 1953, North Carolina players have received first-team All-ACC honors a total of 73 times. Tar Heels have been named to All-ACC second or third teams an additional 64 times, although those teams have not been published continuously.
In 2002, the Atlantic Coast Conference published the "ACC 50th Anniversary Basketball Team", a list of the league's fifty best players from its first half-century as chosen by a 120-member committee. North Carolina had the most selections of the ACC members. The list included twelve former Tar Heels: Billy Cunningham, a Tar Heel forward and center from 1962 to 1965; Brad Daugherty, a center from 1982 to 1986; Walter Davis, a guard and forward from 1973 to 1977; Phil Ford, a guard from 1974 to 1978; Antawn Jamison, a forward from 1995 to 1998; Bobby Jones, a forward from 1971 to 1974; Michael Jordan, a guard from 1982 to 1984; Larry Miller, a forward from 1964 to 1968; Sam Perkins, a forward and center from 1981 to 1984; Lennie Rosenbluth, a forward from 1954 to 1957; Charlie Scott, a guard from 1967 to 1970; and James Worthy, a forward from 1979 to 1982.
For a guide to the abbreviations used, see the glossary.
Since North Carolina joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953, Thirteen Tar Heels have been named ACC Player of the Year fourteen times. The only Tar Heel to repeat as winner of ACC Player of the Year was Larry Miller in 1967 and 1968. The ACC Rookie of the Year title was first awarded during the 1976 season and since its creation nine North Carolina players have won the award, with the most recent being Harrison Barnes in 2011. Nine North Carolina basketball players have won the Anthony J. McKevlin Award for the ACC's male athlete of the year ten times. The lone Tar Heel to win the award twice was Phil Ford in 1977 and 1978.
After his national championship-winning season in 1957, Frank McGuire received Coach of the Year honors from the UPI and the ACC. Dean Smith won the ACC Coach of the Year eight times before retiring. Smith also won coach of the year from the NABC in 1977 for leading the Tar Heels to the National Championship Game and from the NABC in 1993 after he helped coach the Tar Heels to a national championship victory. In 1998 Bill Guthridge won the Coach of the Year awards for the Naismith, NABC, and ACC. Matt Doherty won the AP Coach of the Year award in 2001. The Commonwealth Athletic Club of Kentucky presented its Coach of the Year award, the Adolph Rupp Cup, to Roy Williams in 2006 for leading the Tar Heels to the NCAA Tournament after the much of the roster due to graduation or for the NBA Draft.
The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame has commemorated many of the sport's most outstanding and most innovative personalities. Among them are four former North Carolina players and five former North Carolina head coaches.