Is the Carolina Basketball Museum Chapel Hill’s Disneyland?


By Laurie Paolicelli

This is Carolina Basketball.

It takes a particular sort of person to understand, appreciate, and avidly support a museum dedicated to the game of basketball. Let’s be honest: for the general public, a museum devoted to art or archeology, history, or spaceflight, makes much more common sense.

But it’s not just any basketball, or any basketball game. This is the Carolina Basketball Museum, complete with the national championship trophies and early scouting notes on a largely unheralded recruit named Michael Jordan; that makes it a Tar Heel’s dream come true, and also one of the busiest tourism attractions in Chapel Hill — this summer alone the Museum will have over 10,000 visitors. It’s a fascinating place to be, Tar Heel or not. Many visitors to the museum have never watched a college basketball game, but they find the design, layout, and trivia to be entertaining and educational.

Visitors to the museum will enjoy a seven-minute video about Carolina Basketball.

The University of North Carolina has one of the strongest fan bases in the NCAA, and the fact that both Duke University and North Carolina State University are located right down the road has made these basketball rivalries legendary.

The Triangle region of central North Carolina, where UNC, Duke, and NC State universities reside, is not so much a geographical location as it is a basketball oasis — one place in the South where the hardwood sport reigns supreme. In addition to these three neighboring NCAA Division I basketball teams, another competitive ACC basketball team, Wake Forest, is also just a short drive to the west; legendary Hall of Fame coaches, such as Eddie Cameron, Everett Case, Vic Bubas, Frank McGuire, Bones McKinney, Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, and current hall of famers Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams; unforgettable players from Dick Groat to Art Heyman to Charlie Scott to David Thompson to James Worthy to Lennie Rosenbluth to Phil Ford to Johnny Dawkins to Tyler Hansbrough to Christian Laettner to Tim Duncan . . . the list is endless.

This museum is one of the first basketball only museums for a university in the country.

The Museum — one of the first of its kind in the United States – chronicles a history of success, legendary wins, and some of the most outstanding careers in sports history. Any collegiate fan will find themselves captivated by the hundreds of artifacts, photos, videos, and memorabilia highlighting the history of the Carolina basketball program — and that’s quite a history: 20 Final Four appearances, 18 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships, and 7 National championships. And counting.

The Museum includes nearly 500 authentic artifacts.

The Museum includes nearly 500 authentic artifacts.

In many ways the Carolina Basketball Museum is about more than basketball. It’s about teamwork, courage, and doing the next right thing.

The late Dean Smith was a huge proponent of desegregation, recruiting North Carolina’s first black scholarship player, Charlie Scott. Few coaches were as beloved by their players and community, and upon his death, Dean Smith left each of his former players a $200 check. The message that came with those checks read, “Enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith.

As Dean Smith famously said: “I do believe in praising that which deserves to be praised.”

The Carolina Basketball Museum is worthy of praise. See you there.

The Carolina Basketball Museum celebrates the rich history of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball program.

Updated historical panels and video illustrate the hiring of Hubert Davis as the newest Tar Heel head coach.

Directions and Parking

The museum is located on the first floor of the Ernie Williamson Athletics Center, adjacent to the Dean E. Smith Center and Koury Natatorium on Skipper Bowles Drive.

Meter parking can be found across the street in the Williamson Lot and hourly parking can be found at the Ramshead Deck. Check the 2023-24 basketball schedule to catch a game during your visit. Admission to the Basketball Museum is free! Call the main number to schedule group tours.

Admission to the museum is free. Parking in metered spaces across the street in the Williamson Lot.

And P.S. The Tar Heel Basketball Non-Conference Schedule has just been released. Go Heels!

Oct 27 vs. St. Augustine’s (preseason game, Chapel Hill)
Nov 6 vs. Radford (Chapel Hill)
Nov 12 vs. Lehigh (Chapel Hill)
Nov 17 vs. UC Riverside (Chapel Hill)
Nov 22 vs. Northern Iowa (Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island in The Bahamas)
Nov 23 vs. Texas Tech or Villanova (Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island in The Bahamas)
Nov 24 vs. Arkansas, Memphis, Michigan or Stanford (Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island in The Bahamas)
Nov 29 vs. Tennessee (ACC-SEC Challenge in Chapel Hill)
Dec 5 vs. Connecticut (Jimmy V Classic in New York)
Dec 16 vs. Kentucky (CBS Sports Classic in Atlanta)
Dec 20 vs. Oklahoma (Jumpman Invitational in Charlotte)
Dec 29 vs. Charleston Southern (Chapel Hill)

The Carolina Basketball Museum is located on the first floor of the Ernie Williamson Athletics Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus.

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

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