High School Hierarchy: 6-10
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
6. Power Memorial Academy, New York, NY
NBA Players Produced: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mario Elie, Len Elmore, Ed Searcy, Johnny Ezersky
Combined Experience: 43 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 9
All-Star Appearances: 19
Hall of Famers: 1
Total Points: 122
Power Memorial, which closed in 1983, is best remembered for its basketball dominance in the early 1960s when a young center who was going by Lew Alcindor led the team to 96 wins in four years, including a record 71-game winning streak that ended in 1965. Its 1964 team was selected as the No. 1 high school team of the century. But, although that was the school’s height of dominance, Power won another New York City Catholic High Athletic Association (CCHAA) in the 1970s and would have another notable NBA alum on its list had Chris Mullin not transferred to a different high school. Longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta also is a Power Memorial alum.
You’ve probably heard of: Abdul-Jabbar took the torch from the Bill Russell era and became the next generation’s winningest big man, getting a NBA championship in Milwaukee and five more after his trade to the Lakers. Kareem made the sky-hook one of the most stylish shots in basketball and played at a high level on good teams for two decades. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Abdul-Jabbar averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game every one of his first 13 seasons in the League. His scoring average didn’t dip below 20 points per game until he was 39 years old, remarkable considering all of the dominant big men of the last 20 years saw their offensive games erode by their mid-30s.
Don’t forget about: Mario Elie will never be remembered as a NBA great, but his toughness undoubtedly propelled three of his teams to championships. He was a key reserve on the Houston Rockets’ back-to-back championships — and who can forget the kiss he blew to the Phoenix Suns’ bench in 1995 after hitting a series-clinching three-pointer in Game 7 of that Western Conference semi-finals series? Elie also came up huge for Houston in the NBA Finals that season, averaging 16 points per game in the sweep of Orlando. Elie brought his trademark toughness to San Antonio’s title team in 2000, helping Tim Duncan and David Robinson each get their first ring.
Len Elmore on Power Memorial Academy: “The tradition, really was about winning multiple national championships,” said Elmore, currently a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports. “Obviously, producing arguably the greatest basketball player of all time in Lew Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is a big part of that tradition, but they still had a rich basketball tradition in the city of New York before that. Lew Alcindor really brought it to life and then from there, it continued and Power year after year developed top-notch players and was a preeminent power — not to play on words — in city basketball overall.
“People know of me coming from there, they may know of Mario Elie coming from there, but they don’t realize Chris Mullin started there, some really good college basketball players started there, but overall, it’s just a rich tradition of quality basketball players in the Catholic League and city overall.
“My senior year, we went undefeated and were city champions and were widely, if not unanimously, regarded as the No. 1 high school team in the nation. We played teams from different parts of the country, including my soon-to-be college teammate (at Maryland) Tom McMillen’s team. That was a year of perfection if you will.
“History has a tendency of being a product of context. Because Power is no longer in existence, people tend to forget. Only people who lived in that era really remember just how dominant that school was. It’s a source of tremendous pride to be a part of it, to be a name individually associated with that golden era in the 1960s and ‘70s of New York high school basketball.
“I had never played basketball at an organized level until I got to Power, so I made some pretty big strides from being a raw sophomore to All-City as a junior to All-American as a senior. My coach, the late Jack Kuhnert, had a big impact, but I also think it was the discipline of the education. It was an all-boys school and Christian brothers who were very strict disciplinarians. We learned a lot about being able to focus and persevere and learned a lot about work ethic, and those are the ingredients of making great basketball players and great teams. Overall, not only the basketball culture, but the academics, all of those things made the school what it was and the tradition what it was.”