By R.L. Bynum
Danny Green’s injury during the Philadelphia 76ers’ Eastern Conference semifinals series contributed to him being denied a third consecutive NBA title.
But it’s guaranteed that a Tar Heel will win a title for a third consecutive season — either Cameron Johnson with the Phoenix Suns or Justin Jackson with the Milwaukee Bucks.
It will be the second time in three seasons that a former Duke player won’t earn a ring, the exception being last season when Quinn Cook was Green’s teammate on the champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals begins in Phoenix at 9 p.m. Tuesday on ABC.
Either Johnson or Jackson will become the 18th former Carolina player to win at least one NBA title and boost the total of player NBA championships by Tar Heels to 36. The next-highest ACC total of players to win titles is 10 by Louisville and the next-highest ACC total of championships is eight by the Cardinals and Duke.
Johnson is a key reserve for the Suns, providing good defense. He shot 9 of 16 from 3-point range (56.3%) and 21 of 30 from the floor (70%) in their six-game series victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to earn the Western Conference title.
Jackson’s Bucks finished off the Atlanta Hawks with a 118–107 Game 6 victory in Atlanta on Saturday night for the Eastern Conference title.
Jackson, who played 3 minutes and 24 scoreless minutes in Game 2, has played in five games in the playoffs, scoring six points in 15 minutes. Jackson signed a two-way contract with Milwaukee on April 21 after the Oklahoma City Thunder released him on April 5.
Jackson, a member of UNC’s 2017 national championship team, can become the fourth Tar Heel to win an NCAA title and an NBA title. The only three to have done that are James Worthy (1982 NCAA title; Lakers championships in 1985, 1987 and 1988), Michael Jordan (1982 NCAA title; Bulls titles 1991–93 and 1996–98) and Green (2009 NCAA title; titles with San Antonio in 2014, Toronto in 2019 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.)
Green, who injured his right calf in Game 3 of the Sixers’ series loss to the Atlanta Hawks, is one of only four players in NBA history to win titles with three franchises.
The Lakers were also one of the three teams for the other three players to win three titles with three franchises; LeBron James (also with Miami and Cleveland), former Georgia Tech star John Salley (also with Detroit and Chicago) and Robert Horry (also Houston and San Antonio).
Michael Jordan, of course, has the most player titles of any Tar Heel with the six he won with the Chicago Bulls. Mitch Kupchak (Washington and two with the Lakers), Scott Williams (Chicago), Rick Fox (Lakers) and Green won three. Jordan, Williams, Fox and Green are the only Tar Heels to win titles in three consecutive seasons. Jordan did that twice.
Nine UNC alums have won multiple championships as players.
UNC alums to win NBA titles as players
Billy Cunningham (1), 1966–67, Philadelphia 76ers
Charlie Scott (1), 1975–76, Boston Celtics
Mitch Kupchak, 1977–78, Washington Bullets
Tommy LaGarde (1), 1978–79, Seattle SuperSonics
Kupchak, 1981–82, Los Angeles Lakers
Bob McAdoo, 1981–82, Los Angeles Lakers
Bobby Jones (1), 1982–83, Philadelphia 76ers
Kupchak (3), 1984–85, Los Angeles Lakers
Bob McAdoo (2), 1984–85, Los Angeles Lakers
James Worthy, 1984–85, Los Angeles Lakers
Worthy, 1986–87, Los Angeles Lakers
Worthy (3), 1987–88, Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Jordan, 1990–91, Chicago Bulls
Scott Williams, 1990–91, Chicago Bulls
Jordan, 1991–92, Chicago Bulls
Williams, 1991–92, Chicago Bulls
Jordan, 1992–93, Chicago Bulls
Williams (3), 1992–93, Chicago Bulls
Kenny Smith, 1993–94, Houston Rockets
Pete Chilcutt (1), 1994–95, Houston Rockets
Smith (2), 1994–95, Houston Rockets
Jordan, 1995–96, Chicago Bulls
Jordan, 1996–97, Chicago Bulls
Jordan (6), 1997–98, Chicago Bulls
Rick Fox, 1999–2000, Los Angeles Lakers
Fox, 2000–1, Los Angeles Lakers
Fox (3), 2001–2, Los Angeles Lakers
Rasheed Wallace (1), 2003–04, Detroit Pistons
Brendan Haywood (1), 2010–11, Dallas Mavericks
Danny Green, 2013–14, San Antonio Spurs
Harrison Barnes (1), 2014–15 Golden State Warriors
James Michael McAdoo, 2014–15, Golden State Warriors
James Michael McAdoo (2), 2016–17, Golden State Warriors
Green, 2018–19, Toronto Raptors
Green (3), 2019–20, Los Angeles Lakers
Photo via @JJacks_44