North Carolina

What's in a name: James Michael Ray McAdoo

Posted February 19, 2013

University of North Carolina sophomore James Michael McAdoo has a last name synonymous with basketball in the Triangle but there is more to his name than the family tree alone can tell.

Ronnie McAdoo, James Michael’s father, was a star at Orange High School in Hillsborough. From there he went on to post a hall of fame career at Old Dominion University. Ronnie's second cousin is former North Carolina All-American Bob McAdoo.

"Being a McAdoo, and people knowing about Bob McAdoo and my father, there definitely is a higher standard to live up to,” James Michael said.

Growing up in Norfolk, Va., he went by James McAdoo until his final year of high school.

"Right in the middle of his senior year, he came to mom and dad and said, ‘hey I want to be known by my full name,’" Ronnie said.

James Michael Ray McAdoo.

The name is simple yet unique but its roots are derived from tragedy and carried with remembrance.

James Michael McAdoo's parents Gravley: The touching story behind McAdoo's name

Ray Broxton grew up in Florida and became a teammate of Ronnie's at ODU. In 1989, Broxton died in an accidental fall at the age of 26.

"I was like a big brother to him," Ronnie recalled of their relationship, Broxton being a couple years younger.

James and Michael McPherson went to Orange High School with Ronnie. The three of them were classmates, teammates and, soul mates. Even after high school, they found ways to spend time together.

On April 28, 1979, Ronnie, James and Michael were going to travel together from Old Dominion back to North Carolina.

"Michael was in the Navy at Portsmouth and James and I were at ODU together as freshmen," Ronnie remembered. “We were scheduled to leave first thing Saturday morning, about 6 o'clock. I was pretty tired so when James and Michael came by Saturday morning about 5:30- 6 o'clock and said ‘you ready to go home?’ I said, ‘hey, I stayed out pretty late last night so tell my mom I'll see her next week. I'm not going to be able to make it home this week.’”

Ronnie went back to sleep while James and Michael headed home to Hillsborough.

"About an hour, two hours later, a state trooper came and knocked on my dorm door and said that .... ‘There's been an accident on 58. Michael and James were killed,’” Ronnie recalled, unable to hold back his tears. “I was supposed to be in that car. I was supposed to be in that car, but by the grace of God, he had other plans for me."

Ronnie chose to remember his three friends that were lost too early by having their names live on.

"I talked about them almost every day and he's heard the stories about James and Michael and Ray and he knows how close they were to me," Ronnie said.

“I've heard the story many times. I've just sat and thanked God for not having my father in that car,” James Michael said. “I love him so much and he's made me into who I am today.

“James, Michael and Ray are all men that made my father who he is today and played such a vital role in his early life. Just to know there are people that knew all those men that are looking at me and giving me a nod of approval, it's a blessing for me to carry that with me for the rest of my life."

Ronnie and his wife Janet make the drive from Norfolk to every Carolina home game. They call it a dream come true to watch James Michael Ray play for the Tar Heels. And every time they hear his name, it's a reminder of a son and father forever connected by three names.

“As long as I'm living, and James Michael is living, their names are going to live forever," Ronnie said.


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  • PanthersFan45 Feb 20, 2013

    It probably shows my age but I recall growing up as a kid in NY state and seeing the old Buffalo Braves of the NBA on TV. They were lead of course by Bob McAdoo who was a star in the 70's ....... when I 1st heard James Michael McAdoo's name I thought of Bob but had no idea about the connection. I guess I was too lazy to look it up. He'll be drafted but I won't venture a guess as to how high. He needs to toughen up IMHO. Maybe hit the weights and become more physical inside. He does that and he'll be one heck of a player.

  • raleigh-cary Feb 20, 2013

    This truly puts sports in perspective. I'm a huge NC State fan, but this story goes far beyond sports. Wonderful story. That interview with James Michael's dad had to have touched anybody.

  • StunGunn Feb 19, 2013

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm sorry that it had such a tragic ending for James and Michael McPherson.

  • VT1994Hokie Feb 19, 2013

    I remember Bob McAdoo well. He's he one that put this name on the map. Great story too.

  • kornfan2448 Feb 19, 2013

    View quoted thread

    Great story...thanks for sharing!

  • rpcredl Feb 19, 2013

    It shocked me to see the basketball player tell his story but it hit so close to home that I had to add another story. Watching this segment, McAdoo and his Dad brought tears to my eyes because I also knew Michael and James (McPherson). In particular, Michael and I met when he and I joined the U.S. Navy together and traveled to Orlando Naval Recruit Training School in the fall of 1975. After we left Orlando, we both were sent to San Diego, California to Navy A School. Mike went to the Navy Hospital Corpsman School at Balboa Hospital and I went to Navy Radioman School. We use to play basketball every Sunday morning near Balboa Hospital. At one time, we played a pick up game with members of the San Diego Chargers. That was the day we met Doug Wilkerson (OL) from Fayetteville. We won the first game and then no more - LOL. Later, Mike and I were transferred back to the east coast. He went to Portsmouth, VA Naval Hospital and I went onboard ship the USS Raleigh. For a short time, we got the chance to play some ball and we went over to see James at ODU. After my going overseas on several six month tours and later returning to the USA, it was my trip to the Naval Hospital to catch up with Mike that I learned about his and James' death. It took me a while to understand how this could be. And all I could remember was while in boot camp our company commander stated that ten percent of you in this room will never make it out of the Navy. Not until that moment did I understand what he was saying and the percentages of young military men not surviving their time in the Navy. You can imagine all kind of reasons. But still, never thought it could happen to Mike. But know how much I appreciated McAdoo's comments. He is definitely representing some great guys. And glad that he brought back some great memories.

    Mike had also played ball at Lenoir-Ryne College and he talked about his daughter often. I wish I could see her now.
    Rufus P. Credle Jr. - USN - 1975 thru 1979

  • StunGunn Feb 19, 2013

    View quoted thread

    Agreed. It was so sad when his dad broke down and cried; he seems like such a good, caring person. I'm glad WRAL did this story - now every time they say his name during a game, I'll know the meaning, and how special it is to JMM and his dad.

  • kornfan2448 Feb 19, 2013

    Man, that story was tough to watch and keep a dry eye.

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