The basketball world is in mourning as it bids farewell to a true legend. Walter Davis, the University of North Carolina (UNC) basketball star, passed away at the age of 69 due to natural causes. Walter Davis was not only known for his incredible basketball career but also for his impact on and off the court. In this blog post, we pay tribute to this remarkable athlete, recounting his achievements and the legacy he leaves behind.
A Tar Heel Icon: Walter Davis’ College Career
Walter Davis’ journey to basketball stardom began at the University of North Carolina, where he played under the legendary Head Coach Dean Smith from 1973 to 1977. During his time at UNC, Davis achieved remarkable success, leading the Tar Heels to an ACC Tournament title and an appearance in the NCAA championship game.
One of the standout moments of his college career came in the NCAA championship game, where Davis scored 20 points, leading all scorers. However, despite his impressive performance, the Tar Heels fell to Marquette with a final score of 67-59. This Marquette team was coached by Al McGuire, who would go on to have a prolific broadcasting career, calling some iconic games alongside ACC basketball legend Billy Packer.
An Unforgettable Shot: Davis’ Buzzer-Beater Against Duke
Walter Davis is also fondly remembered for a historic moment in a game against Duke in 1974. In what has become a legendary basketball tale, Davis hit a sensational 25-foot shot at the buzzer, capping an incredible comeback by the Tar Heels. They erased an 8-point Duke lead in the final 17 seconds of regulation. Davis’ clutch shot sent the game to overtime, where the Tar Heels secured the victory.
A Gold Medalist: Representing the USA at the Olympics
Coach Smith recognized Walter Davis’ talent and selected him to play on the USA basketball team in 1976. Davis played a pivotal role in helping the team win the gold medal at the Summer Olympics, showcasing his skills on the international stage.
A Fond Farewell: Tributes from Fellow Players
Walter Davis was not only a basketball star but also a beloved friend and teammate to many. Phil Ford, a fellow Tar Heel and friend of Davis shared his heartfelt condolences: “Walter and I knew each other for 50 years. He was the best man at my wedding, and I was the best man at his. Throughout the last 50 years, we’ve remained in contact with each other and were best friends to each other.”
Fellow basketball greats from around the country, including John Lucas, Scott May, Quinn Buckner, and David Thompson, have expressed their admiration for Davis. His warm and friendly personality, coupled with his exceptional basketball skills, earned him the respect and love of all who knew him.
NBA Stardom: A Rookie of the Year and 6-Time All-Star
After his college career, Walter Davis was drafted as the 5th overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. He made an immediate impact in the NBA, earning the Rookie of the Year title. Over the course of his NBA career, Davis became a six-time All-Star. The Phoenix Suns recognized his contributions by retiring his jersey in 1994, a testament to his lasting impact on the team and the sport.
A Family Connection: Uncle to UNC’s Head Coach
Walter Davis’ legacy continues within the UNC basketball program, as he is the uncle to current UNC men’s basketball head coach Hubert Davis. His family connection to the Tar Heels makes his passing all the more significant for the university and its basketball community.
A Life Well Lived: A Tribute to Walter Davis
Walter Davis was more than just a basketball star; he was a beloved friend, a respected teammate, and a legend whose legacy will continue to shine. His contributions to the game and the UNC Tar Heels will be remembered by fans, players, and the basketball world at large. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and loved ones during this time of loss.
Walter Davis’ memory will forever live on in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him, watching him play, and witnessing his indomitable spirit on and off the court.