High School Hierarchy: 16-20
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
This is the third installment of a six-part series featuring the best high school basketball programs in America. For more of SLAMonline’s High School Hierarchy, check out the archive.
by Patrick Hayes / @patrick_hayes
20. Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, NY
NBA Players Produced: Billy Cunningham, Jerry Fleishman, Happy Hairston, George Thompson
Combined Experience: 33 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 4
All-Star Appearances: 8
Hall of Famers: 1
Total Points: 69
An argument could be made that Erasmus Hall’s contributions to sports are more at the ownership level than the playing field. Legendary Chicago Bulls/White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, New York Knicks founder Ned Irish and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis are Erasmus alums, as are Barbara Streisand, chess master Bobby Fischer and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel. But the school also made a sizable impact on the NBA, even if the overall volume of its NBA players is less than some other schools, producing a Hall of Famer and three other guys who had solid careers.
You’ve probably heard of: Nicknamed ‘The Kangaroo Kid’ for his ability to get up in the air, Billy Cunningham’s accomplishments include winning MVP of the Brooklyn League and garnering All-City honors in New York. He was National Player of the Year at North Carolina and a first round pick by the Sixers.
He won a title with Philly in 1967, had a Hall of Fame career, and then added a championship as a coach to his resumé as well, leading the Sixers to the 1983 title.
Don’t forget about: With teammates like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, it was easy for any player on the 1972 Lakers to fall through the cracks. But Happy Hairston was vital to the success of one of the best team’s in NBA history. That Lakers team has a record 33-game winning streak as well as a 69-win regular season among its notable accomplishments. He averaged a double-double seven times in his career, and was a major presence on the glass, doing a lot of the dirty work for Chamberlain on those Lakers teams.
Hairston, who died of cancer in 2001, also had some notable minor acting roles to his credit, including parts in movies like Brian’s Song and Fame and on TV shows like Happy Days and Sanford and Son.
Random fact: Many people remember Charles Barkley’s gesture to Magic Johnson during the 1991 season. After Magic retired when he found out he was HIV positive, Barkley switched from No. 34 to No. 32 that season as a member of the Sixers.
But you may not remember, Barkley needed Billy Cunningham’s blessing to do it. Cunningham’s No. 32 was retired at the time, but he gladly gave Barkley permission to pay tribute to Johnson by wearing it.