It all started with Charlie Scott. After gaining fame a year earlier for being one of the first black athletes to land a scholarship at a major southern school, the guard brought North Carolina into prominence by landing on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's 1968 college basketball preview.
That cover was the first but certainly not the last for North Carolina, particularly over the next 29 seasons (a.k.a. the Dean Smith Era), when players like Phil Ford (March 17, 1975) and Dudley Bradley (March 12, 1979) would help transform UNC's image from that of perennial contender to that of premier program.
On these pages we present every SI cover featuring the Tar Heels. Sam Perkins makes the most appearances (three), and in his second time up front, on Nov. 28, 1983, Perkins shared billing with some kid named Jordan (making the first of a record 49 appearances on the SI cover, his only one in blue and white). Not surprisingly, this year's Tar Heels are well represented: The 2004-05 preview issue featured Rashad McCants, and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Sean May graced the national championship issue.
DECEMBER 2, 1968
Charlie Scott (front) had UNC in the mix for top pick.
MARCH 17, 1975
Phil Ford drove the Heels in the conference tournament.
MARCH 12, 1979
Dudley Bradley stuffed Duke at ACC tournament time.
NOVEMBER 30, 1981
Dean & Co. had designs on a national title.
MARCH 29, 1982
Sam Perkins and the Heels vaulted into the Final Four.
APRIL 5, 1982
A title-Worthy team brought it home versus Georgetown.
NOVEMBER 28, 1983
Jordan and Perkins were looking out for another No. 1.
MARCH 26, 1984
The tournament began with a toppling of Temple.
MARCH 2, 1987
Freshman J.R. Reid powered UNC into March Madness.
MARCH 8, 1993
UNC and Brian Reese grabbed college hoops' top spot.
APRIL 12, 1993
Michigan was fab, but Eric Montross and UNC ruled.
MARCH 6, 1995
Best of the best: Jerry Stackhouse got SI's vote.
DECEMBER 22, 1997
SI, and the sports world, saluted a retiring Dean Smith.
NOVEMBER 22, 2004
Rashad McCants and Carolina shot to the top last fall.
APRIL 11, 2005
Sean May and UNC took over the tournament.