The Home Of Nascar

North Carolina is pretty big on sports, but two such disciplines remain a cut above the rest as the state is mostly known for stock car racing and college basketball. 

The Home Of Nascar

It’s considered the originator where racing is concerned and is definitely the home of NASCAR, both physically and spiritually as most of the competing teams are based there.

The Home Of Nascar

College ball is the only sport nearly as popular as stock car racing, which became North Carolina’s official sport in 2011. 

Basketball’s Rise In Popularity

Basketball wasn’t big in the state until the 50s but its popularity spread like wildfire, with Indiana-born Everett Case becoming the head coach at North Carolina State University in 1956.

Apart from his mission to improve the team’s fortunes, Case was keen on popularizing college hoops in NC and soon had his team leading the pack in the Atlantic Coast, with the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Wake Forest struggling to play catch up.

This resulted in all of the programs searching out coaches who could get similar results out of their teams and compete with the Wolfpack.  

Duke brought in Vic Bubas while UNC hired Frank McGuire, and Wake Forest acquired Horace “Bones” McKinney. UNC would beat the University of Kansas, a program boasting a future NBA legend in Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for the national championship in 1957.

Davidson College, albeit not part of the ACC, gained notoriety under Charles “Lefty” Driesell before the phrase “Tobacco Road” became attached to powerhouse college teams and passionate fans.

The state’s black colleges would also join the rest in forming excellent basketball programs, although they were hardly promoted. 

John McClendon, who coached at North Carolina Central University in Durham, was the first to employ what’s now known as the “fast break,” having learned the game from James Naismith himself.

Clarence “Big House” Gaines won the first of 828 victories at what’s now Winston-Salem State University. When he retired in 1993, Gaines had the most wins to his name as an active coach and was the second all-time to win over 800 games. He still ranks ninth on that list.

NC State won the national championship under Norm Sloan in 1974 and won again nine years later as part of a miracle run under another coach, Jim Valvano.

The “Big Four” in the ACC still mostly make up for the popularity of college hoops in North Carolina.

UNC won a pair of titles in 1982 and 1993, with a kid from Wilmington named Michael Jordan who would later go on to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles scoring the latter’s game-winner on a jumper that is still talked about to this day. With sports betting potentially becoming legal in North Carolina later this year, fans are eager for the expansion of North Carolina online sportsbooks, so they can get some skin in the game when such pivotal moments arise.

North Carolina recently legalized sports betting in July 2019, with two tribal casinos being the only locations allowed to offer sports betting at this time. The state has been slow to expand sports betting options beyond these two casinos, but there is growing interest in legalizing mobile sports betting and expanding the market to more locations throughout the state.

Duke later hired Mike Krzyzewski, who would earn the iconic “Coach K” nickname, in 1980. And he would go on to steer the Blue Devils to four national titles as they won two consecutive championships in 1991 and 1992, another in 2001, and the last in 2010. 

Professional Basketball In North Carolina

On a professional level, the Charlotte-based Carolina Cougars played in the American Basketball Association from 1969 to 1974. It returned to NC in 1988, with the Charlotte Hornets playing their first season then. They only won 20 games that campaign but led the NBA in attendance.

The team moved to New Orleans in 2002 after owner George Shinn’s legal troubles saw a decline in attendance.

As it turns out, Jordan is now the team’s owner, though it was recently reported that he’s looking to sell a significant stake.

The Hornets have only made it out of the first round of the playoffs on just three occasions, 1993, 1998, and 2001. 

When they moved out in the early 2000s, the Charlotte Bobcats sprang up in 2004 as the NBA was under no illusions as it pertains to the importance of basketball in the city. Robert Johnson, the founder, and the league’s first black team owner, sold the franchise to Jordan six years later. They reverted to the name Hornets, with New Orleans now home to the Pelicans.

Football and Ice hockey are also pretty popular in North Carolina, with its professional teams being the most successful, despite basketball being more popular. The Carolina Panthers have reached two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl while the Carolina Hurricanes won the only major league accolade for a Carolina-based team when they triumphed in the Stanley Cup finals in 2006.