High School Hierarchy: 21-25
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
24. DuSable Leadership Academy, Chicago, IL
NBA Players Produced: Maurice Cheeks, Nathaniel Clifton, Julian Hammond, Lonnie Lynn, Shellie McMillan, Kevin Porter
Combined Experience: 43 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 1
All-Star Appearances: 5
Hall of Famers: 0
Total Points: 60
A school whose backdrop was once the Robert Taylor Homes, which was at the time the largest housing project in the country, DuSable has produced some very recognizable names in the history of American culture, including comedian Red Foxx, musician Nat King Cole and Soul Train host Don Cornelius. Once known for its award-winning music program, DuSable also has produced its share of NBA talent.
You’ve probably heard of: Maurice Cheeks is known for being humble and unselfish. As a player, despite being an All-Star himself, he was overshadowed by bigger-name teammates like Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone and Andrew Toney. As a coach, he was the antithesis to the Jail Blazers-era teams that he was in charge of, injecting a calm demeanor to the combative and emotional styles of many of his players. And his best moment as a coach had nothing to do with basketball — he helped a 13-year-old who had stumbled over the words out of nervousness during the National Anthem complete the song.
But make no mistake: Cheeks, even if he did it quietly, was one of the top point guards of his era. He averaged 11 points, 6 assists and 2 steals per game for his career, he was a career 52 percent shooter, very impressive for a guard, and he was one of the top defensive guards of the 1980s.
Don’t forget about: Nathaniel ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton’s career averages of 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists per game in eight NBA seasons won’t wow you. But Clifton, the first African American player to sign a NBA contract (he signed first, but was among three who made their debut in the same season, joining Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper), made significant contributions to basketball, both through his skills and showmanship.
He was a “first” in another way as well: He might be considered the NBA’s first black star. While Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd, Clifton’s African American contemporaries who integrated the NBA in the year 1950, were low-key, low-profile players, Clifton was a popular figure and a born entertainer who delighted fans with his feats on the court. Some said that had he come of age in the era of multi-million-dollar endorsement deals, he would have scored big with his public-friendly personality and become a rich man.
Clifton was 27 years old when he made his debut (though his official age wasn’t known at the time because Clifton avoided divulging it), so some of his best years were spent playing in all-black leagues and playing with the Harlem Globetrotters. Never a force offensively, Clifton was effective on the boards, ranking among the league leaders three times in his career in rebounds despite standing only 6-6 and playing fewer minutes than many of his peers in the category.
Random fact: Playing just one ABA season after a standout career high school career at DuSable, Lonnie Lynn is well known these days, but not for basketball.
He’s the father of Chicago hip hop star and actor Common, and Lynn’s played a role in his son’s music career. Lynn — referred to as ‘Pops’ — contributes spoken word poetry on Common’s albums.