As the North Carolina basketball season approaches I was surfing the internet for a story about former Tar Heels, when I found a small nugget that was worth writing about. Anyone that follows my blogging knows that I do a “North Carolina in the NBA” recap, which run downs how the former UNC players are doing at the next level. In all 44 NBA Championship rings have been won by fourteen former Carolina players.
So, it must be Michael Jordan and his six rings the one that has the most… right? Well, not really. It’s Mitch Kupchak that has the most, with ten of them. Three of them coming as a player (1978 with the Wizards, 1982 & 85 with the Lakers), and the rest as a front office personnel with the team from Tinsel Town.
He has been a member of the front office with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1986, when he entered the franchise as an assistant general manager under Hall of Famer Jerry West. Kupchak, who most can not even pronounce his last name (it’s “Kup-CHAK,” not “Kup-CHEK”), replaced his mentor, but not until 2000, when West moved on, did the former Tar Heel get the credit for what he was doing as the team’s GM.
And while he has done in the offices of the franchise stands on its own merit, the fact that some NBA analysts can not pronounce his name is truly a disgrace. To mispronounce the name of someone who is just on the scene might be acceptable by some, but the fact that Mitch Kupchak has been in the NBA since 1976 and there are still people, who work full time following the Association, can not say his last name right is pathetic.
Before entering the Associtioan the 6’9″ power forward made an impact at North Carolina. He was the ACC Player of the Year in 1975, the same year he was an All-American Second Team player. In 1976 Kupchak was the starting center on the gold medal Olympic team. One that featured Dean Smith as its head coach and had another Tar Heel, Phil Ford, on it. In all that squad went 7 and 0 in the summer tournament.
While the Lakers are down some this season, the franchise could easily be back on top soon enough. Meaning that before the 59 year old stops doing what he loves he could easily have another ring or more to put alongside with the ones he has.
So, the next time you go to a Carolina game, ask your seat neighbor “Do you know which former Tar Heels as the most NBA Championship rings” and see if he/she knows. And if they don’t send them to this post to find out!