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UNC basketball legend Sam Perkins compared the UNC-Duke rivalry to baseball’s most famous rivalry: the New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox.
Before UNC and Duke won their respective Elite Eight matchups this weekend, UNC basketball legend and longtime NBA star Sam Perkins made a bold prediction. If both teams faced one another in the Final Four round, it would be a bigger showdown than what Red Sox and Yankees fans were treated to in the AL Wild Card game last October.
Perkins told FanSided that because it’s a Final Four matchup during March Madness, the bitter rivalry between these North Carolina teams will attract a bigger audience than usual—and everyone will see just how far the UNC-Duke competition goes.
“If they did meet, it’ll be like — it’s already like that — but it’d be like the [New York] Yankees and Boston [Red Sox] on a bigger scale. And I really think that’s how it would go,” Perkins said.
Perkins noted that there’s residual bitterness in Durham because Chapel Hill spoiled Coach K’s final home game of his 42-year coaching career, handing the Blue Devils a 94-81 loss on March 5.
“Granted, Duke remembers that farewell game at Cameron [Stadium], so they’re gonna have some animosity and ferocity going into the game, but Carolina will be poised and hopefully overcome all that eagerness that they would have,” Perkins said.
UNC legend Sam Perkins thinks UNC-Duke rivalry is worse than Red Sox-Yankees
Perkins played as power forward and center at UNC from 1981 to 1984 on a championship-winning roster that also featured Michael Jordan and James Worthy. Perkins credits famous UNC coach Dean Smith for the Tar Heels’ success in the early 1980s, especially in the year that UNC won the NCAA Championship in 1982. At that time, UNC enjoyed a fierce rivalry with Georgetown as well as Duke, but the bad blood with the Blue Devils has built up over the years—even though the schools are about ten minutes apart.
“They’re not that far, they’re only eight miles apart… You go on one highway and it connects to the next school,” Perkins explained. “But Duke people came over to Franklin Street because it was Franklin Street. You know, it was Chapel Hill, and I’m sure they didn’t wear their Duke too proudly over there.”
Perkins has another controversial take on the rivalry, which Red Sox and Yankees fans may or may not be able to relate to: they got along more often than people might believe.
“I really believe that we got along more than we say we did,” Perkins said. “I have friends and some guys on Duke that I know and was friends with, and we call each other every time Carolina plays Duke. Instead of money, we bet some ridiculous thing, like I’ve got to wear some Duke jersey or a Duke hat or something.”
“This year, it was quiet more or less because we broke even with them. But yeah, it was rivalry there, but the ferocity in every time they come together… I mean, even the announcers have to be neutral, but somewhere quietly, they’re rooting for their respective teams.”