This Is The Most Famous Basketball Rivalry In The South
The schools are only 15 minutes apart, but the loyalties run deep.
Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have one of the most famous rivalries in college basketball history. Duke, based in Durham, North Carolina, is only 15 minutes away from rival UNC – but, it doesn't stop fans in the area from drawing lines firmly in the sand. "You could literally just go 8 miles and be in enemy territory," one fan joked. Folks in the area don't have a choice in being passive about it, either. Neighbors, fellow church goers, and friends become (playful!) enemies on game day when Duke blue and Carolina blue jerseys show up on the court.
The teams first met in January of 1920, and have faced off on the court almost 250 times since then. Unlike many of the other Southern school rivalry traditions (specifically football) from years past, both basketball teams tend to be evenly matched. In their latest meeting, Duke lost to Carolina by just 5 points. A close game, indeed!
"It's unbelievable, the depth of it, the meaning of it, that it has to draw especially our sports fans," said R.W. "Wense" Grabarek, who was the mayor of Durham back in the early 60s and turns 99 in May. "And everybody becomes a sports fan down here, whether you want to or not."
"I have many, many friends who are Carolina people," said Jerry Bernstein (better known as 'Dancing Jerry'!). It's a wonderful feeling. We just really enjoy beatin' 'em."
The roots of this Carolina basketball rivalry even spread to driving directions, as Wense shared. "I have dear friend, he was just Carolina, so rabid. He would tell me, 'I don't even use Duke Street!' And I said, "Jack, I'm sorry to hear that because that's the shortest way for you to get to the hospital...' He said, 'I'll get there without it!'"
No matter the side, this rivalry of blue is truly something to behold. And, it's better witnessed in person – the buzz on game day is incomparable. "And, I would say may the better team win," said Wense. "And...Duke is the better team."