NFL's Walter Davis passed away at the age of 69

 November 3, 2023

Walter Davis, an NFL great who will be known as "Sweet D" to Tar Heel fans forever, passed away of natural causes while visiting relatives in Charlotte, the university reported on Thursday. Hubert Davis, the UNC basketball coach, was his uncle.

In basketball, Davis, now 69, was an All-ACC selection. He made the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1978 and went on to be an NBA All-Star for the Phoenix Suns six times, as the Charlotte News Observer reported.

In 1976, he was a part of the U.S. Olympic basketball team that won gold under Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina.

Davis's Career

Davis, one of the best shooters in school history, made history as a freshman by making a 25-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Duke and complete an incredible eight-point comeback in the final 17 seconds of regulation. In 1974, the game went into overtime, which was won by UNC.

Davis, at 6 feet and 6 inches tall, was tasked with defending N.C. State's David Thompson in the 1975 ACC Tournament title game.

The national player of the year, Klay Thompson, scored only 16 points on 7-for-21 shooting and was held to under 10 rebounds in UNC's 70-66 semifinal victory over Maryland.

Phil Ford, a freshman at UNC, was awarded tournament MVP, although he claimed that his teammate Davis deserved the honor more.

“Walter and I knew each other for 50 years,” Ford said Thursday in a statement. “We met when I was a senior in high school and I was coming up to Carolina as a recruit at football games. When we were in school together he and I were best friends. He was the best man at my wedding and I was the best man at his.

“Throughout the last 50 years, we’ve remained in contact with each other and were best friends to each other. He loved me and I loved him. He was a great, great, great guy that happened to be a great basketball player.”

UNC went on to win another ACC championship in 1977, Davis’ senior year, when he made his first All-ACC team and went on to play in the NCAA championship game, where the Tar Heels lost to Marquette.


The Phoenix Suns selected Davis with the fifth pick in the 1977 NBA Draft and he played 15 seasons in the league with the Suns, Denver and Portland Trail Blazers. As a rookie, Davis averaged 24 points per game, a career-high, and he scored 20 or more six times in his career.

With his smooth shooting stroke, Davis finished his college career at UNC with a total of 1,886 points and he was the Suns' all-time leader in points (15,666) and the Suns retired his jersey (No. 6) and later inducted him into the team's Ring Of Honor in 2004.

Davis was a graduate of Pineville High School in Charlotte and was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

“This is a sad, sad day with the passing of Walter Davis, one of our all-time great basketball players and an even nicer person,” former UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge used to rave about how much fun it was to coach Walter.

“I got to watch him as a fan and loved getting to know him later. The big shot to end the “eight points in 17 seconds game’ against Duke will stay with us forever as will many other fantastic moments. Walter is a truly great Tar Heel.”

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