One of the most memorable moments of June’s NBA Draft was Chicago Bulls rookie Coby White and his mid-interview reaction upon learning that former North Carolina teammate Cam Johnson got drafted higher than many initially anticipated. This was easily the best and most genuine reaction in this year’s edition of the NBA Draft, and what makes it so awesome is the fact that it came from a rookie who was just so visibly overjoyed not by his own achievement, but by that of his former teammate and close friend:
Coby White had the best reaction to finding out his UNC teammate Cam Johnson got selected No. 11. 🙌
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 21, 2019
White’s heat-of-the-moment reaction was so endearing that he gained meme-level popularity overnight. Today, we take a deeper look at the man behind the meme and his inspiring journey to the NBA.
White is a 6-foot-5 point guard coming out of a single year of NCAA basketball with the Tar Heels. He was selected seventh overall by the Bulls, who appear to have scooped up their point guard of the future in the 19-year-old prospect.
As a youngster, White already excelled as a basketball player. He played high school ball for Greenfield School in Wilson, North Carolina, where he would end up being one of the most decorated players in the history of the school by the end of his four-year stint. White was even able to learn from one of the best point guards ever in Chris Paul.
On top of the numerous honors he received during his time in Greenfield — being named as North Carolina Player of the Year for 2018 by USA TODAY and a call-up to the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game, to name a couple — White also ended up setting the record for most points scored by a high schooler not only for Greenfield, but in the entire state of North Carolina as well.
White’s ear-to-ear smile is perhaps the one thing one would most remember him by — especially for those who have not had the privilege to see this young man ball out. However, behind this smile is actually a very sad story.
As a senior in high school, White tragically lost his father to cancer. This was unquestionably the most difficult experience he had to go through in his entire life, and in an interview, White himself described how unfathomable it was to lose a loved one:
“Hardest day of my life,” Coby says, via Jason Jordan of USA TODAY High School Sports. “That was rough. It is rough.”
However, White stayed strong and used this tragedy as inspiration for the rest of his journey:
“I’m dedicating the rest of my career to my father,” he said. “More than anything, my dad wanted me to succeed and take care of my family. He just wanted the best for me. I feel like I owe it to him to put everything I have toward that. I still think about what the preacher said about him up there in Heaven dancing in the streets of gold. That makes me happy. It makes me want to be the best man and the best player I can be. He’s still with me watching over me. It’s a good feeling to know he’ll always be with me in my journey.”
Following a tremendous high school career, White was deservedly one of the most highly recruited prospects for the 2017-18 NCAA season. After receiving several scholarship offers, he eventually committed to North Carolina, where he lived up to all the hype surrounding him.
In 35 games for the Tar Heels, White averaged 16.1 points (on 42.3 percent shooting), 3.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.1 steals in 28.5 minutes per contest, while also hitting 2.3 3-pointers on a 35.3 percent clip. He set all sorts of records during his one-and-done season with UNC. For one, he set a new record for most points scored by a freshman (562), overtaking the one and only Micheal Jordan. Also, White drained 82 treys last season, shattering the freshman record for most 3-pointers made in a single season.
White led his squad to a trip to the Big Dance, but unfortunately for them, their run in the 2019 NCAA Tournament was a short-lived one. UNC fell to Auburn, 97-80, in the Sweet 16, marking an end to White’s memorable college career.
Now with the Bulls, White is presented with a tremendous opportunity to emerge as a high-level guard in the league. The youngster likely won’t be the starter right away in Chicago, but he should get his fair share of minutes as the franchise looks to improve in a big way in 2019-20.
White is not only a very talented youngster, but he is also the type who wears his heart on his sleeve. So long as he is able to channel this in the proper direction, we can definitely see the sky as the limit for this young man.