Charlie Scott, a New York playground legend is possibly one of the greatest to ever come out of Rucker Park. Once credited by Tiny Archibald with ‘inventing the crossover’, Scott was a baller’s baller. In 1966, legendary head coach Dean Smith came calling with the intension of making him the first African-American scholarship player at the University of North Carolina. At that time it was unheard of in the south to be recruited by a predominantly white school, let alone one as prestigious as UNC-Chapel Hill. Scott felt comfortable saying that although he knew it was a big deal, Coach Smith never made that a point of emphasis.
The flashy 6-6 guard elected to join the Tar Heels and would go on seize the opportunity. In an era when freshmen were ineligible for the varsity, Scott waited his turn and became a star as soon as he got the chance in his sophomore year in the 1967-68 season. He refused to allow racist remarks from fans on the road to take away from his game and his team.
Scott led the Tar Heels to their second and third consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances in 1968 and 1969. During the NCAA Tournament in 1969, he scored 32 points and hit a jumper at the buzzer to beat Davidson and send the Tar Heels to the Final Four.
His junior and senior years were marked by perhaps the biggest slights of Scott's career. Widely regarded as the best player in the ACC, he was not given player of the year honors in either season. He was passed over in both years when the award was given to John Roche of South Carolina.
"That was about the only time in college that I felt things were done in a prejudicial manner," Scott told a North Carolina newspaper, the News & Record. "And what concerned me more was how the media handled it. Nobody ever said anything about it, never challenged what took place. To me, that's just another form of hypocrisy."
Despite the unsettling feeling, Scott continue to persevere as he was part of the gold medal winning team at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. In 1970 Scott chose to start his pro career in the ABA for the Virginia Squires, where he was rookie of the year in 1971 and a two-time All-Star in his two seasons in the league. Scott played in the NBA from 1972 to 1980 after he left the ABA. He was an NBA All-Star in his first three seasons and helped Boston win a championship in 1976.
Scott's choice to attend the University of North Carolina proved to be one of the most impactful decisions in sports history. It inspired a young sixth grader by the name of Phil Ford who when he looked on the court and saw Charlie Scott, it instantly made him a Tar Heel fan. From Phil Ford, to Michael Jordan, to Vince Carter, to Ty Lawson, the legacy all leads back to one Charlie Scott.