Tobacco industrialist Washington Duke, whose fortune had helped finance the university that became Duke University, made a final statement on his deathbed in 1905. Durham science: “Go to hell Carolina, go to hell.”
Yes, there are rivalries. And then there is The rivalry between North Carolina and Duke that inspired the obsessive fandom genre has only been passed through geography, genetics, and a generational exchange of joy and destruction.
The exaggerated terms used to describe the men’s Final Four matchup between neighboring universities on Saturday – fairy tale, gigantic, gigantic – somehow fail to capture the integrity of the long-awaited matchup.
Separated by nearly eight miles along Tobacco Road, the teams have played 257 times and combined for 38 Final Four games and 12 national championships (it should be noted that North Carolina has seven and Duke five).
Somehow, in the midst of all this messy history, Saturday they’ll be playing in the championship game for the first time.
Not enough tension for you? Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski will be working on a storybook that ends his illustrious career against North Carolina’s new coach, Hubert Davis. sour Krzyzewski played his last game at Duke’s Cameroon Indoor Stadium less than a month ago.
“This is a basketball lover’s dream,” said Duke graduate NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Two schools full of tradition, an all-time rivalry and a legendary coach who completed his career on the biggest stage of college basketball. The stakes couldn’t be higher.”
Governor Roy Cooper hailed Duke as a bastion of education, said many of his friends have graduated, and praised the talents of the young Duke alumni working on his campaign.
But on Saturday, it will take root in New Orleans, North Carolina, where he graduated from.
“Yes, I’m a Tar Heel,” Cooper said in a statement Thursday. advert He calls North Carolina the center of the college basketball universe. “When it comes to basketball, you have to be with your team,” he added.
For many Carolinians, battle lines are drawn early. Will Blythe, former editor of Tar Heel and Esquire magazine and author of a book on competition, To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever, remembered his father telling an anecdote in his childhood: “A duke walks down the street as if he owns the world. A Carolina man walks like he doesn’t care.”
Tressie McMillan Cottom, a writer and associate professor in North Carolina, said one of her earliest childhood memories was of her stepfather pointing out Michael Jordan on the field for North Carolina.
McMillan Cottom said that the fact that Duke is viewed as a private university attended by wealthy foreigners and North Carolina’s state public university only fuels the wedge among fans.
“The Duke represents what this country is,” said McMillan Cottom. “Carolina represents what people hope this country will be. In the Southern context, the Duke is the elite Southern aristocracy.”
The son of Polish immigrants, Krzyzewski grew up in Chicago. He recruited and coached the four-year-old stalwarts who defined college basketball during their term, such as Bobby Hurley, Steve Wojciechowski, and Shane Battier.
It has returned in recent years to host single and finished era players like Jabari Parker, Kyrie Irving, and Zion Williamson.
“I remember Coach K once telling me that if there were Duke state university, there would be statues everywhere honoring him and his team,” Blythe said.
This, of course, is a rivalry that predates Krzyzewski.
Beyond Washington Duke’s dying statement, many point to the 1961 feud between North Carolina’s Larry Brown and Duke’s Art Heyman was his real catalyst, at least on the field. It intensified throughout the 1970s and 1980s when both teams embarked on a steady streak of national prominence and titles.
“When you’re consistently getting all of this at a very high level with two schools so close together, you want to bottle it up,” said John Swofford, former ACC Commissioner and North Carolina athletic director. “I’m sure everybody in the country would like to bottle it, because that’s really healthy for schools and really healthy for the ACC.”
Not very healthy for fans of country singer Eric Church, who canceled Saturday’s sold-out concert in San Antonio to watch the game.
“As a lifelong Carolina basketball fan, I’ve watched Carolina and Duke battle for years, but getting them to match in the Final Four for the first time in NCAA tournament history is any sports fan’s dream,” Church said. a statement describing it as the most selfish act he has ever made.
Jay Bilas, an ESPN commentator who plays for Krzyzewski and lives in North Carolina, has had arguments with fans who prefer their team to be eliminated early in the tournament rather than dig deeper and lose to their rivals.
Bilas said, “You ask yourself, ‘Is this just a competitive game in the Final Four, or is it just a competitive game in the Final Four?’ you ask,” he said. “What’s the first thing in this thing? And for many fans, competition comes first.”
Sometimes the lines were crossed. Kenny Dennard played for Duke in the 1970s. He has fought against North Carolina 14 times and has even brand Washington Duke’s dying proclamation is now a Duke rallying cry no matter the opponent.
Still, he is forever grateful to the famous North Carolina coach, Dean Smith. Dennard listed Smith as his first reference on his job application after his game days were over.
“I thought if my biggest rival, one of the best coaches in the world, said nice things about me, it might be good in a job interview,” Dennard said. “He said he would gladly.”
Many players say their competitive experience is etched in their memory forever. Marvin Williams landed a game-winning kick against Duke to secure North Carolina’s conference championship in 2005. He said basketball was the greatest of his life, outpacing those taken over a long NBA career.
“Whether it’s for the regular season championship, the regular season game or the national championship, we want to beat these guys hard, for whatever reason,” Williams said.
Likewise, Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina said he is reminded every week by his fans. eyebrow In 2007, he was covered in blood from Duke’s Gerald Henderson.
“I think it’s really funny,” Hansbrough said. “‘Did it hurt?’ Hell yes, it hurt. It was a peak moment. But it’s one of the moments that fueled the fire, it’s one of those moments that fuels the fans. It demoralizes the players.”
Whatever the outcome, governor Cooper plans to stay in New Orleans for Monday night’s championship game. After all, a team from North Carolina will continue to play.
And as Dennard predicted, the Duke-North Carolina semifinal will be infamous no matter the final score.
“One team will remember forever anyway,” he said, “and the other team will try to block it.”