Summer 2024

North Carolina's Coby White looks to God in midst of pain as NBA Draft approaches

Ask anyone who’s ever been drafted and they’ll say there’s nothing in this world quite like hearing your name called from behind the draft podium. It’s the culmination of countless hours in the gym and countless more spent visualizing that glorious trek across the stage. When the moment finally comes, many erupt in shouts of joy. Others simply cry.

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For North Carolina freshman point guard Coby White, he already knows Thursday night’s NBA Draft will be an occasion for both. Only his tears will emerge from a deep pit of pain, created by the death of his father in 2017.

“(The 2019 NBA Draft) is going to be the most exciting moment of my life,” White said in a poignant article for The Players’ Tribune, “but at the same time, as crazy as it might sound, I think it’s also going to be the most difficult moment I’ve ever experienced aside from losing my father to cancer.”

With incredible emotional vulnerability, White details the months leading up to his father’s death from liver cancer and the often-torturous two years since. He describes the anger he felt in the aftermath of his father’s passing, most of it directed at God. White wrote that God could have stopped the cancer’s spread and God could have eased the pain.

White continued to perform on the court despite his anguish and anger at God off it.

He had already earned a scholarship to North Carolina before his dad passed, but in his senior year of high school, White became the top scorer in the history of North Carolina high school basketball and earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-American Game. In his first and only season of college basketball this past season, White averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists as the starting point guard for the Tar Heels. His team earned a share of the ACC regular-season title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But, as White writes, the pain of his loss remained.

His anger toward God, however, didn’t. The closeness with God that White experienced through prayer has made his relationship with the Lord stronger than it’s ever been, even through the greatest trial of his life. Now, he prays that God would bless his father’s soul.

“I just started talking to God a lot more, and praying every night,” White wrote for The Players’ Tribune, “and after a while, I started to get a sense of relief.

“Ultimately, I think that, through all of this, I have actually gotten a lot closer to God. I now feel more connected than ever. And it feels really good knowing that, and being secure about it, as I embark on the next chapter of my life.”

White’s next chapter will begin in earnest on Thursday night. CBS Sports has White going at No. 6 to the Phoenix Suns, while Sports Illustrated and USA Today project the Chicago Bulls to pick White seventh overall, and ESPN has him as its No. 9 overall prospect.

No matter where he ends up, as he makes his way across the stage to shake NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s hand, White knows that there will be a twinge of sadness knowing his father isn’t there to witness it. But White will find solace in the fact that God’s powerful yet peaceful presence will be with him wherever he goes.

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