We all know the state of North Carolina has a rich history of success in college basketball and has produced some major NBA talent, but did you know that North Carolina has produced the most #1 NBA draft picks of any state? There have been seven #1 NBA draft picks who played their high school basketball in North Carolina (equaled only by the state of Illinois which has also had seven #1 NBA picks) giving further credence to the fact that basketball is ingrained in the DNA of the Old North State.
Jimmy Walker – 1967 #1 Pick
Jimmy Walker was the first person to play high school basketball in North Carolina to be picked #1 in the NBA draft when he was selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1967. Jimmy Walker was originally from Boston, but Celtics star Sam Jones took an interest in the young Walker and steered him to his alma mater, Laurinburg Institute, a black preparatory school in Laurinburg, NC. He played his college ball at Providence and was the NCAA’s leading scorer his senior year. Interestingly, he was also the final pick of the 1967 NFL draft despite having never played college football.
David “Skywalker” Thompson – 1975 #1 Pick
David Thompson was born and raised in Shelby, NC where he played for Crest High School. He went on to play his college basketball at NC State, being an instrumental player in the Wolfpack's 1974 National Championship season. Thompson was a three time ACC player of the year and two time national college player of the year. Thompson was drafted #1 in 1975 by both the ABA’s Virginia Squires and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks but ended up signing with the ABA’s Denver Nuggets. Thompson was a finalist in the first ever slam dunk competition, losing to Julius "Dr.J" Erving who performed the first ever free throw line dunk at the 1976 ABA All-Star weekend.
John Lucas – 1976 #1 Pick
John Lucas is a native of Durham where he played for Hillside High School. He went on to play at Maryland in college where he was twice named a consensus first team All-American. Lucas was also an extremely talented tennis player and was named an All-American in tennis at Maryland as well. Lucas was picked #1 in the 1976 draft by the Houston Rockets.
James Worthy – 1982 #1 Pick
James Worthy was born in Gastonia where he led Ashbrook High School to the state championship game in his senior year. Worthy went on to play his college basketball at UNC where he won the national championship in 1982 along with Michael Jordan. In his junior year at UNC he shared player of the year honors with Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was drafted #1 by the LA Lakers in 1982, where he spent the entirety of his career and won three NBA championships, being the only player on this list to win an NBA title. Worthy was also named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
Brad Daugherty – 1986 #1 Pick
Brad Daugherty was born and raised in Black Mountain near Asheville. Daugherty played for Charles D. Owen high school and led the team to the 1982 state finals. Daugherty played his college basketball at UNC where he entered school as a 16 year old freshman. Daugherty was picked #1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1986. Daugherty was the Cavaliers all-time leading scorer until LeBron James broke that record in 2008. Daugherty is now commonly seen as a college basketball analyst and NASCAR broadcaster for ESPN.
Danny Manning – 1988 #1 Pick
Danny Manning was born in Mississippi but ended up in Greensboro after his father, who played professional basketball in the NBA and ABA for 10 years, started his coaching career as an assistant at NC A&T in Greensboro. As a junior, Manning led Page High School to an undefeated season and a state championship. He went on to play for the University of Kansas, where he won the national championship and player of the year honors in 1988, and was drafted #1 by the Los Angeles Clippers later that year. Manning’s career has brought him full circle back to North Carolina when he recently took the head coaching job at Wake Forest.
John Wall – 2010 #1 Pick
John Wall was born in Raleigh and played his high school basketball at Word of God Christian Academy. Wall played one year at Kentucky where he was named a first team All-American. He was drafted #1 by the Washington Wizards in 2010 and has been an NBA All-Star the last two seasons.
1984 #3 PICK
And then of course there is the world’s best known #3 draft pick in NBA history from Wilmington, North Carolina…