North Carolina

UNC’s Coby White says father’s death will make NBA draft the hardest thing he’s faced

Coby White, a former North Carolina basketball player, wrote a heartfelt essay about his late father shared publicly a day after Father’s Day and just days before he is expected to be drafted by the NBA.

White played one season at UNC, in which he was the second-leading scorer and averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists per game, before declaring for the NBA draft, the News & Observer originally reported in April.

In the essay published online by, White calls his dad his hero and the rock of his family. He shares fond memories of playing basketball with him and staying up past his bedtime to watch “Rocky” movies together.

He also credits his father with his love of basketball.

“Pretty much as soon as I could hold a basketball, he had me out on the street in front of our double-wide shooting at the hoop he’d set up,” he wrote in the essay.

But he also recounts the anger he felt toward God when, at 17 years old, his mom told him his father was going to die of liver cancer.

His father died in 2017 and, in the essay, White writes about how difficult it was to watch him suffer and to eventually lose him.

White came to UNC in 2018. He wrote that, although it was one of the best years of his life, it was extremely difficult because his dad wasn’t there to share it with him.

“We had an amazing season, with so many incredible moments – a conference title, two huge wins over Duke, a No. 1 seed in the tournament. It was one of the best years of my entire life,” he wrote. “At the same time, though, it was just exceptionally difficult because … Pops wasn’t around to share those moments with me.”

White is one of 20 players invited to sit in the green room during the NBA draft, which is “considered a positive sign for a player’s draft stock,” according to ESPN.

But White said he expects Thursday’s draft to be the most difficult thing he’s experienced besides losing his dad to cancer because it won’t be the same without him.

“There’s going to be so much excitement within me when I hear my name called and fulfill the dream of a lifetime. But afterward, when I’m alone with my family, or just off to myself … I’m going to break down and cry,” he wrote.

Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.