basketball Edit

No. 35: Sean May

Sean May closed his Carolina career playing about as well as any UNC player before or since, earning him this spot.
Sean May closed his Carolina career playing about as well as any UNC player before or since, earning him this spot. (AP)


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Every offseason, we run historical ranking series focusing on North Carolina basketball and football.

The purpose each spring isn’t to make declarative statements, but to have fun offering a subjective look at the best teams and players ever at Carolina. This effort is to generate discourse, debate, and take UNC fans down memory lane.

This season, we are doing something a little different, combining football and basketball, as we offer our take on the Top 40 UNC football and basketball players of all time. The CRITERIA are quite simple: The process includes playing careers with the Tar Heels and professionally, other relevant impacts they’ve had on their sports, coaching, and championships. We also gave a lean toward all UNC accomplishments.

So, this isn’t a UNC-only list, a pro-only list, or a straight up purely best ever list. Some Tar Heels on this list didn’t have great pro careers but were so good and historic at UNC, they simply had to make the cut. Some on this list weren’t stars at UNC, but had outstanding and/or highly distinguished pro careers, that it warranted their place among these 40 athletes.

We hope you enjoy the list and feel free to disagree, as we know many will.

We continue our countdown with:


No. 35: Sean May (2002-05)

The Most Outstanding Player of the 2005 Final Four, May’s performance over the final two months of that season may have been the best stretch by a Tar Heel ever. He capped the regular season with a 26-point, 24-rebound effort in a thrilling win over Duke many fans remember for Marvin Williams’ late basket that brought down the house at the Smith Center and clinched the ACC regular season title for the Tar Heels.

May was named the Sports Illustrated National Player of the Year, was a first-team All-America by numerous services, and was the key player in the Tar Heels winning the national championship, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in St. Louis. He was also the East Region MOP in 2005, first-team All-ACC in 2005, second-team All-ACC in 2004.

He’s one of just eight Tar Heels to average a career double-double, scoring 15.8 points and grabbing 10.0 rebounds per game. He averaged 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds as a junior, which is the third most rebounds in a season in UNC history with 397 in 2005.

As outstanding as May was in winning the MOP at the 2005 Final Four, many UNC fans might remember him just as much for that incredible performance versus Duke, and now as an assistant coach on Carolina’s staff for the last five years. His jersey No. 42 hangs in the Smith Center rafters.

Professionally, he was a first-round pick in the NBA draft in 2005 and played five years in the league and several seasons overseas, winning championships in France and Turkey and earning the French Final MVP in 2013. He led the French league in scoring in 2013, as well.

May was also named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year in 2004.

His pro career didn’t match his college success, but few Carolina players have been as good as he was late in the 2005 season, and the timing of his explosion with UNC coming off a terrible stretch following Dean Smith’s retirement, and Roy Williams taking over, are important footnotes in his story as well as UNC’s basketball lore.