Four of the greatest basketball players in NBA history and one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history highlight the top players from the Tar Heel State.
Five most dominant high school athletes in North Carolina history
Michael Jordan, E.A. Laney (Wilmington), 1981
Generally regarded as the greatest player in NBA history, Jordan flew under the radar for much of his high school career. According to his biography by David Halberstam, Jordan did not make the varsity as a sophomore due to being just 5-foot-11. But after growing four inches the next year, Jordan averaged nearly 25 points per game as a junior and committed to North Carolina prior to his senior season. Although he was not a preseason All-American by Street & Smith's, Jordan was a McDonald's All-American by the end of his senior year. He hit the game-winning shot as a freshman to lead North Carolina to a national championship in 1982 and he famously went on to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles over eight seasons.Steph Curry, Charlotte Christian (Charlotte), 2006
Although his slender frame kept him attending Virginia Tech, where his father Dell went to college, Steph was a standout in high school. He earned All-State honors and helped lead his team to three conference championships. He excelled at Davidson, leading the team to a memorable run in the NCAA tournament his sophomore year, including an Elite 8 appearance. He led the NCAA in scoring his junior year at 28.6 points before being drafted by the Warriors. He's won two NBA MVP awards and helped lead Golden State to three championships.
Chris Paul, West Forsyth (Clemmons), 2003
Paul only played two years on the varsity at West Forsyth, but he was Mr. Basketball in North Carolina and earned first team Parade All-American honors and made the McDonald's All-American Game. He played two seasons at Wake Forest and was All-American as a sophomore. In the NBA, Paul is a nine-time All-Star, has led the league in steals six times and assists four times and has been a four-time first team All-NBA player.
Julius Peppers, Southern Nash (Bailey), 1998
A three-sport star in high school, Peppers was an All-American defensive lineman at Southern Nash and also rushed for 3,501 yards in his career as a running back. In basketball, Peppers was all-conference four years in basketball and helped the track team win the state meet. At North Carolina, Pepper was All-American and won the Lombardi Award and the Bednarik Award as a junior. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft, Peppers played 17 years in the NFL, was a nine-time Pro Bowl player and was three time first-team All-Pro.David Thompson, Crest (Shelby), 1971
Thompson led the state in scoring his senior year at 30.9 points per game while leading Crest to a 28-1 record and the runner-up finish in the state. An All-American, Thompson went to North Carolina State, where he helped the Wolfpack end UCLA's reign as national champions in 1974. He was also named the AP Player of the Year and was the No. 1 pick in the 1975 NBA Draft. He played in the ABA and NBA with Denver and later Seattle. He was a four-time All-Star before his career ended due to a knee injury.Also considered:
James Worthy, Gastonia, basketball; John Lucas, Durham, basketball; Phil Ford, Rocky Mount, basketball; Dominique Wilkins, Washington, basketball; Catfish Hunter, Hertford, baseball; Sonny Jurgensen, Wilmington, football; Charlie Justice, Asheville, football; Gaylord Perry, Williamston, baseball; Bobby Bell, Shelby, football; Carl Eller, Winston-Salem, football; Bob McAdoo, Greensboro, basketball; Roman Gabriel, Wilmington, football; Sam Jones, Wilmington, basketball.