Greatest High School Athletes Ever
Michael Jordan. Tom Brady. Barry Bonds. Serena Williams. All these athletes would be on the Mount Rushmores of their respective sports. Yet just because you have a great professional career doesn’t mean you had a great high school career, and none of those four made this list.
Many of the greatest athletes didn’t excel at high school athletics. Yes, they were good enough to go to college or to the pros, but they didn’t set the world on fire as they did later in their careers. Conversely, many of the greatest high school athletes didn’t pan out after finishing play at that level.
The top high school athletes in sports history include many of the latter as well as many familiar names. They were the guys and girls who were stars in high school and the next levels.
Here are the greatest high school athletes of all time.
50. Ken Griffey Jr.
Sports: Baseball, football
High school: Archbishop Moeller High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Key stats: Hit .430 with 7 HR as a junior. Hit .478 with 10 HR as a senior. Only played two years of high school baseball.
Pros: MLB (1989-2010)
Teams: Seattle Mariners (1989-99, 2009-10), Cincinnati Reds (2000-08), Chicago White Sox (2008)
Bottom Line: Ken Griffey Jr.
While Ken Griffey Sr. was smacking homers for the Yankees and Braves, his son Ken Griffey Jr. was doing the same at Moeller High. But he didn't do so until his junior year as the younger Griffey preferred to spend his springs tagging along with his father through major league clubhouses.
In just two years in high school, Griffey hit .478 and was named the National High School Player of the Year. An all-around great athlete, Griffey also played football and received scholarship offers from Michigan and Oklahoma, among many other schools.
49. Jerry Lucas
Sports: Basketball, track and field
High school: Middletown High School (Middletown, Ohio)
Key stats: Two-time Mr. Basketball USA. Two-time state champion. State champion in discus.
College: Ohio State
Pros: NBA (1963-74)
Teams: Cincinnati Royals (1963-69), San Francisco Warriors (1969-71), New York Knicks (1971-74)
Bottom Line: Jerry Lucas
Just as people are looking for the next Michael Jordan or the next LeBron James, back in the 1950s people were looking for the next Wilt Chamberlain.
Jerry Lucas was first compared to "Wilt the Stilt" while at Middletown when he averaged 34.0 points per game and led his team to a 76-game winning streak. Lucas surpassed Chamberlain’s prep high school scoring record and even knocked down 75 percent of his free throws unlike Wilt.
Lucas' Middletown teams often played in front of 15,000 fans, which is something LeBron’s high school team also did 45 years later and also in Ohio.
48. Robert Griffin III
Sports: Football, basketball, track and field
High school: Copperas Cove High School (Copperas Cove, Texas)
Key stats: 3,357 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. 2,161 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. USA Today’s All-USA Track and Field team.
Pros: NFL (2012-present)
Teams: Washington Redskins (2012-15), Cleveland Browns (2016), Baltimore Ravens (2018-present)
Bottom Line: Robert Griffin III
Griffin posted a 25-4 record as the starting quarterback at Copperas Cove, which is about an hour’s drive from Austin.
He posted a 41-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his career as Copperas advanced to two state championships, only to fall both times.
But RG3 did win two state championships in track as he set state records in both the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles. His personal best time in the 300 meters of 35.33 was just one one-hundredth of a second short of the national high school record.
47. Willie Wilson
Sports: Baseball, football, basketball
High school: Summit High School (Union County, New Jersey)
Key stats: Parade All-American (football). Rawlings All-American (baseball). Scored over 1,000 points (basketball).
Pros: MLB (1976-94)
Teams: Kansas City Royals (1976-90), Oakland Athletics (1991-92), Chicago Cubs (1993-94)
Bottom Line: Willie Wilson
Willie Wilson was a speedy outfielder in his major league career and a speedy running back while at Summit in addition to playing baseball and basketball.
He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards in high school and signed a letter of intent to play for Maryland’s football team. But then the Kansas City Royals recognized his All-Star potential and nabbed him in the first round of the 1974 draft.
Wilson may not have lasted 19 years in the NFL like he did in MLB, but most who saw him believe he would have held his own in pro football.
46. David Clyde
Sports: Baseball, football
High school: Westchester Academy for International Studies (Houston, Texas)
Key stats: 0.18 ERA (senior year). 18-0 record (senior year). Threw five no-hitters.
Pros: MLB (1973-79)
Teams: Texas Rangers (1973-75), Cleveland Indians (1978-79)
Bottom Line: David Clyde
Clyde was hailed as the next Sandy Koufax in high school due to him being a southpaw with a slender build. But there was no way for Clyde to replicate the success he had at Westchester when he allowed just three earned runs in 148 innings.
Just six weeks after turning 18, he was the first overall pick in the 1973 MLB draft, and just three weeks after that, he made his big league debut.
He is one of just a handful of players to go directly to MLB without playing in the minors first and then was out of the majors in 1979 at the age of 24.
45. Tom Glavine
Sports: Baseball, hockey
High school: Billerica Memorial High School (Billerica, Massachusetts)
Key stats: Rawlings All-American in baseball. Two-time All-Scholastic selection. 44 goals and 41 assists in hockey (senior).
Pros: MLB (1987-2008)
Teams: Atlanta Braves (1987-2002, 2008), New York Mets (2003-07)
Bottom Line: Tom Glavine
Growing up in northern Massachusetts, Tom Glavine was more of a hockey fan than a baseball fan. As he would say, "More Bruins than Red Sox."
The ice rink was his initial sports home, and he played against half a dozen future NHL players. He was even drafted by the Los Angeles Kings out of high school but being a lefty meant that he had more of a unique skill set on the mound than on the ice.
After being a fourth-round pick in the NHL and then a second-round pick in MLB, Glavine chose baseball, and the Hall of Famer never looked back.
44. Kobe Bryant
High school: Lower Merion High School (Ardmore, Pennsylvania)
Key stats: 2,883 career points. Southern Pennsylvania’s all-time leading scorer. 1080 on SAT.
Pros: NBA (1996-2016)
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers
Bottom Line: Kobe Bryant
While growing up in Italy, Kobe Bryant spent time playing against grown men so when he returned to the States for high school, it was a step down in competition.
Bryant was so good at Lower Merion that he would manipulate games by allowing his team to fall behind, only for them – and him – to have a big comeback so he would look like the hero.
He was named the Naismith High School Player of the Year and topped off his high school career by taking R&B singer Brandy to the prom.
43. Tim Tebow
Sports: Football, baseball, basketball
High school: Homeschooled (played at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida)
Key stats: Two-time Florida Player of the Year. Set state record for total yardage in a season (5,576). 9,940 career passing yards.
College: University of Florida
Pros: NFL (2010-12)
Teams: Denver Broncos (2010-11), New York Jets (2012)
Bottom Line: Tim Tebow
You can’t talk about Tim Tebow in high school without mentioning the controversy regarding him being homeschooled.
He got his choice of any school in the district that he wanted to play, for and since then, many states have attempted to pass what’s known as the "Tebow Bill" to allow homeschoolers similar options.
That aside, Tebow was as good as any non-homeschooled player while at Nease. He set the Florida prep record for total yards (12,960) and total touchdowns (159).
He also helped lead the team to what remains its only state championship in football, and Tebow was chosen as one of two quarterbacks on the Florida High School Athletic Association’s All-Century Team.
42. Ronald Curry
Sports: Football, Basketball
High school: Hampton High School (Hampton, Virginia)
Key stats: 11,519 yards of total offense (state record). 186 total touchdowns. 21.9 PPG in basketball (senior year).
College: University of North Carolina
Pros: NFL (2002-08)
Teams: Oakland Raiders
Bottom Line: Ronald Curry
Ronald Curry was the same age and lived in the same district as Michael Vick, and the two competed against each other throughout high school. Yet, as talented as Vick was, he was overshadowed by Curry, who was a top recruit in both football and basketball.
During his time at Hampton High, Curry won four state titles – three in football and one in basketball. Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden proclaimed that Curry was the best prospect he had ever seen, but Curry spurned both FSU and his home team of Virginia to become a two-sport star at the University of North Carolina.
41. Josh Booty
Sports: Football, baseball
High school: Evangel Christian Academy (Shreveport, Louisiana)
Key stats: 11,700 passing yards and 126 touchdowns. USA Today Offensive Player of the Year. Four-time All-State in baseball.
Pros: MLB (1996-98)
Teams: Florida Marlins (1996-98)
Bottom Line: Josh Booty
Despite missing four games as a senior, Josh Booty became the first player in high school football history to pass for over 10,000 yards. That earned him a spot on Dick Butkus’ All-Time National High School Team, and Booty beat out fellow Louisiana quarterback Peyton Manning for the top state awards.
On the diamond, he won a silver medal with the U.S. Junior Olympic team and hit 12 home runs in just 70 at-bats as a senior. Booty chose baseball out of high school and spent five years in the Marlins organization before turning to football.
He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL draft (177th pick overall) by the Seattle Seahawks but never played a down in the NFL.
40. Sidney Crosby
High school: Shattuck-Saint Mary's (Fairbault, Minnesota), Harrison Trimble High School (New Brunswick, Canada)
Key stats: World Junior gold medalist. Two-time Michel Brière Memorial Trophy winner. 192 goals in 178 games.
Pros: NHL (2005-present)
Teams: Pittsburgh Penguins
Bottom Line: Sidney Crosby
Playing junior hockey as a 16-year-old, Sidney Crosby won his league’s Rookie of the Year award, MVP award and was the league’s highest point scorer. He became the first-ever player to sweep all three of those awards. The following year, he again doubled as the league’s MVP and highest point scorer while also leading his team to a record-setting 28-game undefeated streak.
On the international stage, Crosby was the youngest player to ever score in the World Junior Championships as a 16-year-old in 2004. At the following year’s Junior Championships, he led Canada to a gold medal, and he calls that time his most memorable moment in hockey.
The Pittsburgh Penguins selected Crosby with the first overall pick in the 2005 NHL, and he's become one of the game's all-time greats.
39. Bobby Fischer
High school: Erasmus Hall High School (Brooklyn, New York)
Key stats: Two-time U.S. chess champion. Youngest grandmaster. Dropped out at 16.
Pros: 1955-72, 1992
Bottom Line: Bobby Fischer
Chess has yet to be included at the Olympics, but it is a mental sport, so one could consider its participants athletes. Thus, Bobby Fischer clearly deserves a spot on this list as not many others reach the peak of their sport at the age of 15.
That’s when Fischer became a chess grandmaster, which is the highest honor a player can achieve. He dropped out of high school a year later but certainly not because of a lack of intelligence as he scored 180 on an IQ test while at Erasmus Hall.
38. Marcus Dupree
Sports: Football, basketball, baseball
High school: Philadelphia High School (Philadelphia, Mississippi)
Key stats: 7,355 rushing yards. 87 total touchdowns. 8.3 yards per carry.
Pros: USFL (1984-85), NFL (1990-91)
Teams: New Orleans/Portland Breakers (1984-85), Los Angeles Rams (1990-91)
Bottom Line: Marcus Dupree
Most high school players are recruited by position coaches or coordinators. The five-star guys are then recruited by the head coach. But Marcus Dupree was such a hot commodity in high school that Oklahoma sent their former Heisman winner, and then NFL player, Billy Sims to recruit Dupree to Norman.
That’s what kind of talent Dupree was at Philadelphia High School in Mississippi as he broke Herschel Walker’s national high school record for most career touchdowns.
Dupree peaked in high school and had an injury-plagued college career before a forgettable pro career. He was the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 titled "The Best That Never Was," which indicated that Dupree had all of the talent in the world but couldn’t translate it to success after high school.
37. Greg Paulus
Sports: Basketball, football
High school: Christian Brothers Academy (DeWitt, New York)
Key stats: 23.5 PPG. 11,763 passing yards. Gatorade National Player of the Year (all sports).
College: Duke, Syracuse
Bottom Line: Greg Paulus
Greg Paulus had quite a senior year in high school as he led his football team to a state title in the fall and was named Gatorade’s National Football Player of the Year. Then in the spring, he averaged 26.8 points per game in basketball and was named New York’s Mr. Basketball.
To cap off his senior year, Paulus was named Gatorade’s National Player of the Year for all sports. He had football offers from Notre Dame and Miami while fielding basketball offers from Duke and UNC.
Unfortunately for Paulus, his athletic career peaked in high school. While he played both sports in college, he was merely average and never made it to the pros.
36. Elena Delle Donne
Sports: Basketball, volleyball
High school: Ursuline Academy (Wilmington, Delaware)
Key stats: MVP of All-American Game. Three-time state champion in basketball. State champion in volleyball.
Pros: WNBA (2013-present)
Teams: Chicago Sky (2013-16), Washington Mystics (2017-present)
Bottom Line: Elena Delle Donne
Delle Donne was the No. 1 player in her high school class and for good reason. During her career at Ursuline, she set the girls’ national high school record by knocking down 80 straight free throws and was the national player of the year.
Delle Donne was bred to become a great athlete as she started working with a personal trainer early in high school and some even called her the female LeBron James. Just like LeBron, she shockingly switched teams. Delle Donne enrolled at UConn, dropped out two days later and enrolled at The University of Delaware, which is 20 minutes from where she was raised.
She was the No. 2 overall pick by the Chicago Sky in the 2013 WNBA draft and led the Washington Mystics to a WNBA title in 2019.
35. Allen Iverson
Sports: Basketball, football
High school: Bethel High School (Hampton, Virginia), Milburn Schools (Lake Ridge, Virginia)
Key stats: Virginia record for most points in a season (basketball). State champion in basketball and football. AP High School Player of the Year in basketball and football.
Pros: NBA (1996-2010)
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1996-06, 2009-10), Denver Nuggets (2006-08), Detroit Pistons (2008-09), Memphis Grizzlies (2009)
Bottom Line: Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson was always undersized on the hardwood and was even more so as a high school quarterback. But he was so much more than just a quarterback and did whatever it took to help the team.
He passed for over 1,400 yards, ran for over 700 yards, accounted for 29 touchdowns on offense, five more on special teams and intercepted eight passes. This all came during his junior year, which culminated in a state championship. Iverson completed a double by winning a basketball state title just months later.
We never got to see Iverson as a senior since he was imprisoned for four months in a controversial assault case with racial implications before being granted clemency. He then finished his senior year at Milburn Schools, a school for at-risk students.
The setback made Iverson stronger, and he went on to star at Georgetown under John Thompson and become a Hall of Famer in the NBA.
34. Moses Malone
High school: Petersburg High School (Petersburg, Virginia)
Key stats: Mr. Basketball USA. Two-time state champion. First player to go from high school to the pros.
Pros: ABA (1974-76), NBA (1976-95)
Teams: Utah Stars (1974-75), Spirits of St. Louis (1975-76), Buffalo Braves (1976), Houston Rockets (1976-82), Philadelphia 76ers (1982-86), Washington Bullets (1986-88), Atlanta Hawks (1988-91), Milwaukee Bucks (1991-93), Philadelphia 76ers (1993-94), San Antonio Spurs (1994-95)
Bottom Line: Moses Malone
Before Kobe, KG or LeBron, there was Moses Malone, who bypassed college for the pros. However, he first went to the ABA after a standout prep career in Virginia in which his numbers look like something out of a video game.
As a senior, he averaged 36 points, 26 rebounds and 12 blocks as over 200 schools recruited him. Petersburg went undefeated during his senior season – and his junior season – en route to back-to-back state championships.
Once he got to the NBA, he starred at the highest level, too, winning an NBA title with the Philadelphia 76ers in a Hall of Fame career.
33. Alex Rodriguez
Sports: Baseball, football
High school: Westminster Christian High School (Palmetto Bay, Florida)
Key stats: Hit .419 in career. 35 stolen bases in 35 attempts (senior). Named Gatorade’s national student-athlete of the year.
Pros: MLB (1994-2016)
Teams: Seattle Mariners (1994-2000), Texas Rangers (2001-03), New York Yankees (2004-13, 2015-16)
Bottom Line: Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod was the star shortstop on the baseball team and the star quarterback on the football team. He was even recruited to play football at the University of Miami, where he would have been the heir apparent to 1992 Heisman winner Gino Torretta.
But Rodriguez’s heart was in baseball, and for good reason. He hit .505 as a senior and stole 90 bases in 100 career games. He was the first high school player ever invited to try out for the U.S. national team, and was the first overall draft pick in the 1993 MLB draft.
He put up huge numbers in the majors, hitting 696 career home runs with 3,115 hits over 22 seasons.
32. Danny Goodwin
High school: Peoria High School (Peoria, Illinois)
Key stats: Rawlings All-American. Hit .494 as a senior. Hit .427 as a junior.
College: Southern University
Pros: MLB (1975-82), NPB (1986)
Teams: California Angels (1975, 1977-78), Minnesota Twins (1979-81), Oakland Athletics (1982), Nankai Hawks (1986)
Bottom Line: Danny Goodwin
Danny Goodwin may not be a famous name, but he holds the honor of being the only player selected first overall in the MLB draft twice. He was the first pick out of high school in 1971 by the Chicago White Sox but chose to go to college at Southern University and A&M in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He then was the first overall pick again in 1975 of the California Angels.
A catcher in high school, he hit over .425 every season while also smacking nine home runs over his career. Although he had success in college, his prep career far outweighed his pro career as he was a designated hitter who didn’t hit that well.
His nine high school home runs were just four fewer than the 13 home runs he hit in the majors.
31. Trevor Lawrence
Sports: Football, basketball
High school: Cartersville High School (Cartersville, Georgia)
Key stats: Four-year starter. 52-2 record. USA Today Offensive Player of the Year.
Bottom Line: Trevor Lawrence
Rivals described Trevor Lawrence as a more athletic Peyton Manning and with a better arm coming out of high school. Yikes!
Lawrence's physical tools were on full display at Cartersville, which is just outside of Atlanta, and he broke Deshaun Watson’s high school state record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns. He was all-state in each of his last three seasons, and his freshman season wasn’t too shabby either as he threw for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions.
Lawrence's success continued in college as he led Clemson to a national championship in 2018, becoming the first true freshman quarterback to start for a national champion since Jamelle Holieway at Oklahoma in 1985.
30. Bruce Hardy
Sports: Football, basketball, baseball
High school: Bingham High School (South Jordan, Utah)
Key stats: Two-time all-state (football). Two-time player of the year (basketball). Two state championships in baseball.
College: Arizona State
Pros: NFL (1978-89)
Teams: Miami Dolphins
Bottom Line: Bruce Hardy
As a high school senior, Bruce Hardy appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, "Best Schoolboy Athlete." His resume backs up that claim as he won three MVP awards across both football and basketball and will likely would have won them in baseball as well if the sport offered the awards.
As a senior, he threw for 20 touchdowns and also led the team in interceptions while playing safety. In basketball, he averaged 21.6 points per game as the team won the state championship. On the diamond, Hardy played five different positions and hit .480 while also playing both pitcher and catcher (not at the same time).
He switched to tight end in college at Arizona State and was drafted in the ninth round (247th overall) in the 1978 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins and played 12 seasons in the league.
29. Simone Biles
High school: Homeschooled (Spring, Texas)
Key stats: Nine-time world championship medalist. Six-time world championship gold medalist. Two-time world all-around champion.
Bottom Line: Simone Biles
Simone Biles was homeschooled from eighth grade until she graduated so that she wouldn’t have any restrictions when it came to practice and training. The decision worked as she has become what many consider the greatest gymnast who ever lived.
Her legendary performance at the 2016 Summer Olympics came a year after she graduated, but she still accomplished much while still in school. She made her junior debut as a 14-year-old in 2011 and her senior debut two years later. She won two gold medals at the 2013 world championships, including the all-around, and then won four more at the 2014 world championships.
Her nine world championship medals before graduating high school placed her second all-time amongst American gymnasts, and since then, she’s become the most decorated gymnast – regardless of nationality – with 25 world championship medals.
28. Rick Mount
High school: Lebanon High School (Lebanon, Indiana)
Key stats: 2,595 career points. 33.1 PPG in junior and senior years. Indiana Mr. Basketball.
Pros: ABA (1970-75)
Teams: Indiana Pacers (1970-72), Kentucky Colonels (1972-74), Utah Stars (1974), Memphis Sounds (1974-75)
Bottom Line: Rick Mount
In 1966, the 19-year-old Mount appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline of "Brightest Star in High School Basketball." He was the first high school athlete to get that honor, and it came after he was compared to both Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
Mount scored in double figures throughout his entire high school career, and legendary UCLA coach John Wooden even went out of his way to travel back to Indiana to recruit Mount.
He stayed local and attended Purdue, where he was an All-American before having a journeyman ABA career and never playing in the NBA.
27. Lisa Leslie
Sports: Basketball, volleyball, track and field
High school: Morningside High School (Inglewood, California)
Key stats: Scored 101 points in a half. First dunked as a sophomore. State champion in high jump and triple jump.
Pros: WNBA (1997-2009)
Teams: Los Angeles Sparks
Bottom Line: Lisa Leslie
Before Lisa Leslie even started a game in high school, she had over 100 recruiting letters due to her ability to play on the boys’ basketball team in eighth grade.
When high school rolled around, she was a varsity starter as a freshman and a state champion as a senior. Leslie averaged 27 points and 15 rebounds in her last year of high school despite playing roughly just half a game. Her coach often would pull her at halftime, so Morningside wouldn’t run up the score and humiliate opponents that the team would then have to face the next year when Leslie was no longer around.
She went on to star at USC in college and with the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA. The Los Angeles sports legend was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
26. CC Sabathia
Sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball
High school: Vallejo High School (Vallejo, California)
Key stats: .563 batting average. 0.77 ERA as a senior. 14 sacks in football.
Pros: MLB (2001-19)
Teams: Cleveland Indians (2001-08), Milwaukee Brewers (2008), New York Yankees (2009-19)
Bottom Line: CC Sabathia
Who said that pitchers aren’t athletes? CC Sabathia was a three-sport star in high school, including playing pitching and hitting for the baseball team. He posted a 0.77 ERA as a senior while also batting .563 with 10 home runs in 80 at-bats.
At 6 feet, 6 inches Sabathia also was a natural on the basketball court, but his second sport was football. He lined up on the defensive line while also playing tight end and even received a college football scholarship offer from UCLA.
He signed a letter of intent to the University of Hawaii to play both baseball and football but elected to skip college and sign with the Cleveland Indians after being drafted in the first round (20th overall) by the Indians in the 1998 MLB draft.
Over 19 major league seasons, he won 251 games and posted a 3.74 ERA.
25. Ed "Too Tall" Jones
Sports: Football, baseball, basketball, boxing
High school: Jackson Central High School (Jackson, Tennessee)
Key stats: All-American in basketball. Received 52 basketball scholarship offers. Played only three games in football.
College: Tennessee State
Pros: NFL (1974-78, 1980-89)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Bottom Line: Ed "Too Tall" Jones
Ed "Too Tall" Jones’ high school didn’t have a football team until his senior year so he only played in three games. But he made his mark in a number of other sports, and his 6 feet, 9 inches attracted interest from both college basketball programs and MLB scouts, who wanted him to play first base.
But his favorite sport was boxing, and he had one Golden Gloves match in which he knocked his opponent out in less than one minute. His basketball coach then forced Jones to quit, but he resumes it during the middle of his NFL career as he retired in 1979 to pursue a professional boxing career.
He returned to the NFL in 1980 and finished his pro football career in 1989 with 57.5 sacks.
24. Jadeveon Clowney
Sports: Football, basketball, track and field
High school: South Pointe High School (Rock Hill, South Carolina)
Key stats: 162 tackles and 29.5 sacks as a senior. 144 tackles and 26 sacks as a junior. USA Today All-American.
College: University of South Carolina
Pros: NFL (2014-present)
Teams: Houston Texans (2014-18), Seattle Seahawks (2019-present)
Bottom Line: Jadeveon Clowney
As a sophomore, Jadeveon Clowney played on a high school team that featured future NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Yet Clowney was still the best player on the team, and his coach said the defensive end wreaked havoc on the team’s offense during practice.
Once the games started, Clowney wreaked havoc on both the opposing team’s offense and defense as he played both ways. He had over 55 sacks in his last two years while also rushing for nine touchdowns as a senior. Clowney nearly matched that touchdown total on defense as he scored eight from that side of the ball in his career via fumble returns and interceptions.
Clowney continue his football career at the University of South Carolina and the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans in the 2014 NFL draft.
23. Wilfred Benitez
High school: Julio Vizcarrondo Coronado Public School (Carolina, Puerto Rico)
Key stats: 27-0 record. Youngest world champion in boxing history. WBA and lineal welterweight champion.
Bottom Line: Wilfred Benitez
Boxer nicknames often tell you much about what kind of fighter he is in the ring such as Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins or Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor. Wilfred Benitez’ nickname was "The Radar" for his ability to foresee what his opponent would do.
Benitez’ radar allowed him to get a split-decision victory over WBA lightweight champion Antonio Cervantes in 1976 to become the youngest world champion in the sport’s history.
Benitez was just a 17-year-old senior in high school, and many of his classmates were in attendance for that special night in Puerto Rico.
22. Drew Henson
Sports: Football, Baseball, Basketball
High school: Brighton High School (Brighton, Michigan)
Key stats: 5,662 passing yards and 52 touchdowns. 70 home runs. Four-time all-state (baseball).
Pros: MLB (2002-03), NFL (2004-08)
Teams: New York Yankees (2002-03), Dallas Cowboys (2004-05), Detroit Lions (2008)
Bottom Line: Drew Henson
In addition to playing basketball, Drew Henson was a two-way star for two other sports.
He passed for more yards and touchdowns than any other quarterback in Michigan high school history while also picking off five passes as a defensive back. In baseball, he finished his career as the national high school all-time leader in home runs, RBI and runs scored while also striking out 163 batters during his junior season.
Add all of that up, and you get the only person to play for both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees, albeit his success was limited at both stops.
21. J.R. Richard
Sports: Baseball, basketball
High school: Lincoln Prep High School (Ruston, Louisiana)
Key stats: 28-0 career record. Threw three no-hitters. Averaged 35 PPG in basketball.
Pros: MLB (1971-80)
Teams: Houston Astros
Bottom Line: J.R. Richard
At 6 feet, 8 inches and 222 pounds, J.R. Richard was built like an NBA small forward, but he could also throw a 100-mph fastball.
He averaged two strikeouts per inning in his senior year at Lincoln and handled himself nicely at the plate as well, once hitting four home runs in a game. On the hardwood, Richard wasn’t some 6-foot-8 stiff, and his average of 35 points per game attracted the attention of numerous colleges.
He reportedly had over 200 college basketball offers but chose to sign with the Astros and only pursued a baseball career. Richard went 107-71 with a 3.15 ERA and 1,493 strikeouts over 10 seasons.
20. Michael Phelps
High school: Towson High School (Towson, Maryland)
Key stats: Competed in 2000 Olympics as a 15-year-old. Youngest male to set a world record in swimming. Two-time American Swimmer of the Year.
Bottom Line: Michael Phelps
In 2000, Michael Phelps set the national record for the 13-14 age group, and that helped him qualify for the Olympics that year as a 15-year-old. That made him the youngest American swimmer to qualify for the games in 68 years, and he just missed out on a medal by placing fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.
But that was just the start for Phelps. The following year, he broke the world record in that event to become the youngest male to ever set a world record in swimming. He then broke his own world record just weeks later and won his first world championship at 16 years old.
His success continued, and he finished his swimming career as the most decorated Olympian with 28 medals.
19. Magic Johnson
High school: Everett High School (Lansing, Michigan)
Key stats: 28.8 PPG, 16.8 RPG as a senior. Selected to inaugural McDonald’s All-American Game. Played point guard on offense and center on defense.
College: Michigan State
Pros: NBA (1979-91, 1996)
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers
Bottom Line: Magic Johnson
Earvin Johnson became Magic Johnson in high school. Literally. After notching a 36-16-16 triple-double as a sophomore, a local sportswriter dubbed Johnson "Magic," and the name has stuck ever since. His mother was a devout Christian and thought the nickname was sacrilegious, but he convinced her to accept it, and Magic replaced Johnson’s previous nickname of Earv.
Johnson won a state championship as a senior high school, won a college championship as a sophomore at Michigan State and won an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers as a rookie in 1980. That gave him three championships at three different levels over the span of four years.
He won four titles with the Lakers in the 1980s and enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
18. Joe Mauer
Sports: Baseball, football, basketball
High school: Cretin-Derham Hall High School (Saint Paul, Minnesota)
Key stats: Hit .605 in senior year. State champion in football. Two-time All-State in basketball.
Pros: MLB (2004-18)
Teams: Minnesota Twins
Bottom Line: Joe Mauer
Mauer struck out twice within his first four MLB games. Why is that relevant? Well, because that’s twice as many strikeouts as he had during his four years in high school. The future three-time batting champ hit over .500 in each of his four years at Cretin-Derham while also throwing 73 touchdowns for the school’s football team. He is the only athlete to be selected as USA Today’s High School Player of the Year in two sports as he won the award as a quarterback in 2000 and a catcher in 2001.
17. Ken Hall
High school: Sugar Land High School (Sugar Land, Texas)
Key stats: National record of 32.9 points per game. 14,448 yards of total offense. 38 100-yard rushing games.
College: Texas A&M
Pros: CFL (1957-58), NFL (1958-61)
Teams: Edmonton Eskimos (1957-58), Baltimore Colts (1958-59), Chicago Cardinals (1959-60), Houston Oilers (1960-61), St. Louis Cardinals (1961)
Bottom Line: Ken Hall
Playing quarterback in the single-wing formation, Ken Hall was more runner than passer and rushed for 11,232 yards in his high school career. That’s a national record that stood for 59 years, and his 32.9 points per game in 1953 is a record that still stands.
For his efforts, Hall had a local stadium named in his honor in addition to the Hall Trophy being bestowed to the best high school football player in the nation.
He played at Texas A&M in college, before playing in the CFL and NFL for a few seasons.
16. Emmitt Smith
Sports: Football, Track and Field
High school: Escambia High School (Pensacola, Florida)
Key stats: 8,804 rushing yards. 106 rushing touchdowns. USA Today High School Player of the Year.
Pros: NFL (1990-2004)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys (1990-2002), Arizona Cardinals (2003-04)
Bottom Line: Emmitt Smith
By the time Emmitt Smith finished his high school career, his 45 100-yard rushing games were the most in high school history and his 8,804 rushing yards were the second-most.
He also led Escambia to two state championships and – despite his infamous lack of speed – competed as a sprinter on the 4x100-meter relay team.
For his efforts, in 2007 the Florida High School Athletic Association named him to their All-Century Team, and he was further honored by being named the Player of the Century in Florida high school football.
After his success in high school, Smith had a Hall of Fame career in college at Florida and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Cardinals, finishing as the league's all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards.
15. Bryce Harper
High school: Las Vegas High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Key stats: Only played baseball in freshman and sophomore years. Hit .626 in final season. Named Baseball America’s Player of the Year as a sophomore.
College: College of Southern Nevada
Pros: MLB (2012-present)
Teams: Washington Nationals (2012-18), Philadelphia Phillies (2019-present)
Bottom Line: Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper’s high school career ended after his sophomore season when he got his GED to start college early and expedite his major league career.
He was the best player in the country as a sophomore, and Sports Illustrated called him the baseball version of LeBron James. Harper was smacking 500-foot home runs when in high school and also clocked 96 mph on the radar gun.
Harper hasn’t quite lived up to the SI billing just yet, but few players in MLB history have accomplished as much as him through 27 years old.
14. Wilt Chamberlain
Sports: Basketball, track and field
High school: Overbrook High School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Key stats: 37.4 PPG in high school career. Broke national high school scoring record. 56-3 team record.
Pros: NBA (1959-73)
Teams: Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (1959-65), Philadelphia 76ers (1965-68), Los Angeles Lakers (1968-73)
Bottom Line: Wilt Chamberlain
We know how much Wilt Chamberlain dominated in the NBA against other pro athletes, so just imagine "Wilt the Stilt" in high school.
He was 6 feet, 11 inches as a freshman, and no high schooler had scored more points than he had when his career was over. He scored 2,252 points at Overbrook to break Tom Gola’s scoring record and even played a couple of pro games under a pseudonym to maintain his college eligibility.
Outside of basketball, Chamberlain used his extremely long legs to his advantage and was both a sprinter and a shot putter. He ran the 440-yard dash in under 49 seconds and set the state record in the shot put.
Chamberlain's legend grew bigger at the University of Kansas, but he could not lead the Jayhawks to a national title and only won two championships during his 15-year NBA career.
13. Marion Jones
Sports: Track and Field, Basketball
High school: Rio Mesa High School (Oxnard, California) Thousand Oaks High School (Thousand Oaks, California)
Key stats: Three-time Gatorade Track and Field Player of the Year. Set high school record in 200 meters. Long jump of 23 feet.
College: University of North Carolina
Pros: WNBA (2010-11)
Teams: Tulsa Shock (2010-11)
Bottom Line: Marion Jones
Marion Jones was so dominant on the track that she was invited to participate in the 1992 U.S. Olympic trials as a 16-year-old. She ultimately declined the invitation but accepted destroying her competitors, specifically in the 100-meter dash.
She was the state champion in the event all four years in high school and was a three-time winner of Gatorade’s Player of the Year in track and field. She mainly focused on the sprint races but also competed in the long jump, and her distance as a senior was the second-longest, ever, by a high school student.
She won her three world championship titles from 1997 to 1999, then won three gold medals and two bronze medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but was later stripped of her Olympic medals after admitting to steroid use.
12. Randy Moss
Sports: Football, basketball, baseball, track and field
High school: DuPont High School (Belle, West Virginia)
Key stats: Parade All-American (football). 30.2 PPG as a senior (basketball). State champion in 100m and 200m (track).
College: Marshall University
Pros: NFL (1998-2012)
Teams: Minnesota Vikings (1998-2004, 2010), Oakland Raiders (2005-06), New England Patriots (2007-10), Tennessee Titans (2010), San Francisco 49ers (2012)
Bottom Line: Randy Moss
Randy Moss was known as "The Freak" in the NFL and, unsurprisingly, he was a freak in high school as well. He was all-state in three different sports and won back-to-back state championships in football. Moss also teamed with future NBA point guard Jason Williams on the DuPont basketball team, and Moss graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
But perhaps Moss;' greatest accomplishments came in his one year on the track and field team. As a 15-year-old sophomore, Moss won the state championship in both the 100 meters and 200 meters. His time in the 100-meter dash of 10.94 was the sixth-fastest by any AAA student in the entire decade of the 1990s – and everyone with a faster time was a senior.
Moss got into some trouble at the end of high school and developed a bad-boy reputation that followed him from college to the NFL, but he proved he was one of the greats and finished his NFL career with 982 receptions, 156 touchdowns and a bust in Canton.
11. Derrick Henry
Sports: Football, basketball, track and field
High school: Yulee High School (Yulee, Florida)
Key stats: 12,124 career rushing yards. 153 career rushing touchdowns. Florida’s Mr. Football.
Pros: NFL (2016-present)
Teams: Tennessee Titans (2016-present)
Bottom Line: Derrick Henry
What Emmitt Smith is to the NFL, Derrick Henry is to high school football. He is the all-time leader in rushing yards with 12,124, and he never had fewer than 100 yards in any of his 48 games.
During his senior season, the future Heisman winner averaged 328 yards and over four rushing touchdowns per game. A three-sport athlete, Henry ran a 4.50 40-yard dash, squatted 500 pounds and deadlifted 550 pounds.
He also was reportedly the same size as a senior (6-foot-3, 247 pounds) as he is now which means he got plenty of Mark Ingram stares while on the high school field.
10. Jim Ryun
Sports: Track and field/cross country
High school: Wichita East High School (Wichita, Kansas)
Key stats: Track and Field News’ High School Athlete of the Year. Ran sub 4-minute mile. AAU champion.
Bottom Line: Jim Ryun
Jim Ryun first broke four minutes on a mile as a high school junior as he became the first high schooler to ever accomplish the feat. That helped him earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 1964, and he advanced to the semifinals in the 1500 meter.
As a senior, Ryun ran a mile in 3:55.3, which is a high school record that stood for 36 years, and five of the six fastest high school mile times were owned by him. He also was named by Track & Field News as the fourth-best mile runner in the world despite being 5-10 years younger than everyone ahead of him.
He won a silver medal in the 1500 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 to 2007, representing Kansas.
9. Danny Ainge
Sports: Basketball, Baseball, Football
High school: North Eugene High School (Eugene, Oregon)
Key stats: Won two state titles in basketball. All-American in baseball. All-State in football.
Pros: MLB (1979-81): Toronto Blue Jays (1979-81), NBA (1981-95): Boston Celtics (1981-89), Sacramento Kings (1989-90), Portland Trail Blazers (1990-92), Phoenix Suns (1992-95)
Bottom Line: Danny Ainge
Most know Danny Ainge from his lengthy basketball career, which began with him winning back-to-back state championships while at North Eugene.
Some also know that Ainge was an excellent baseball player who got drafted out of high school and spent three years with the Blue Jays.
But few know that Ainge could have easily gone pro in football as well and was one of the top recruits on offense and defense in Oregon.
In fact, Ainge is the only athlete, ever, to be named a Parade High School All-American in basketball, baseball and football. And he did it in the same year in 1977.
8. Tiger Woods
High school: Western High School (Anaheim, California)
Key stats: Three-time U.S. Junior Amateur champion. Competed in first pro tournament at 16. Voted "Most Likely to Succeed."
Bottom Line: Tiger Woods
Before Tiger Woods even reached high school, he had broken 70 on a course, something he first did at 12 years old.
As a freshman and sophomore and junior, Woods won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. He remains the only three-time winner, and Jordan Spieth is the only other person to win two times.
Woods then took a step up in competition and competed in the U.S. Amateur Championship, which isn’t just teenagers like the Junior Amateur Championship. Woods became the event’s youngest winner in 1994, then graduated from high school, and went on to win in 1995 and 1996, becoming the only person to three-peat at the event.
He's done pretty well in the pros, too, winning 15 majors and counting.
7. Herschel Walker
Sports: Football, basketball, track and field
High school: Johnson County High School (Wrightsville, Georgia)
Key stats: National high school scholar-athlete of the year (football). 3,167 rushing yards as a senior. Won four state championships (track and field).
Pros: USFL (1983-85), NFL (1986-97)
Teams: New Jersey Generals, Dallas Cowboys (1986-89, 1996-97), Minnesota Vikings (1989-91), Philadelphia Eagles (1992-94), New York Giants (1995)
Bottom Line: Herschel Walker
Before Herschel Walker even stepped onto his high school’s campus, he had done over 100,000 push-ups and 100,000 sit-ups. He was built like a man as a teenager, and it showed in his athletic pursuits.
He scored 86 touchdowns and rushed for over 6,000 yards in his career while also leading the football team to a state championship. In track, he excelled in the sprints where he was state champion in 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash and in the 4x400 relay. He also won a state title in the shot put and did all of this while also being the valedictorian of his school.
He led the University of Georgia to a national title in 1980, won the 1982 Heisman and three-time All-American. He then played three seasons in the USFL before rushing for 8,225 yards and 61 touchdowns in 187 career NFL games.
6. Kyler Murray
Sports: Football, baseball
High school: Allen High School (Allen, Texas)
Key stats: 10,386 career passing yards. 4,139 career rushing yards. USA Today Offensive Player of the Year.
College: Texas A&M, Oklahoma
Pros: NFL (2019-present)
Teams: Arizona Cardinals (2019-present)
Bottom Line: Kyler Murray
Whenever you’re the first to accomplish something, ever, then chances are, you’re pretty special at your craft. That's Kyler Murray. In 2014, the quarterback/infielder became the first athlete in history to be selected for both the Under Armour All-American Football Game and Under Armour All-American Baseball Game.
His football accomplishments alone could have landed him on this list as he went 43-0 as a starter in high school and remains the only two-time winner of Texas’ Mr. Football Award.
Then, Murray was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB draft and first overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL draft, becoming the first player to ever be drafted in the first rounds of both sports.
5. LeBron James
Sports: Basketball, football
High school: St. Vincent-St. Mary High School (Akron, Ohio)
Key stats: 25.3 PPG. Naismith Prep Player of the Year. Three-time Ohio Mr. Basketball.
Pros: NBA (2003-present)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-10, 2014-18), Miami Heat (2010-14), Los Angeles Lakers (2018-present)
Bottom Line: LeBron James
If there was ever an athlete who could have jumped to the NBA as a high school underclassman, it was LeBron James. He petitioned to enter the draft after his junior year in which he advanced to a third straight state championship, but the NBA shot him down.
James averaged 21 points per game as a freshman, became the first sophomore Ohio Mr. Basketball, was the first junior to land the cover of Sports Illustrated, and had his games broadcast on PPV as a senior. James won three state championships in his four years and became a national celebrity way before social media even existed.
If that wasn’t enough, James was also a prolific football player and as a wide receiver was recruited by the likes of Notre Dame, Ohio State and Alabama.
In the NBA, he's scored over 34,000 points in 17 seasons and still is making a case to be the GOAT.
4. Cheryl Miller
High school: Riverside Polytechnic High School (Riverside, California)
Key stats: Four-time Parade All-American. Scored 105 points in a game. California record for career points.
Bottom Line: Cheryl Miller
Cheryl Miller’s younger brother is NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, and her older brother is former MLB player Darrell Miller. Yet it was the middle child – and girl – who was the best athlete in the family.
Many consider Cheryl Miller to be the greatest women’s basketball player of all time. She was the first athlete, male or female, to be named a Parade All-American four times, and all four of those seasons ended with a CIF South Section Title for Riverside Poly.
Miller was the second-ever female player to score 100 points in a game as she poured in 105 in a 1982 game with a Wilt-like 46-of-50 from the field. She then led USC to two national titles and led the U.S. women's basketball team to a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.
In 1995, Miller was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
3. Jackie Robinson
Sports: Baseball, basketball, football, track and field, tennis
High school: John Muir High School (Pasadena, California)
Key stats: Won junior boys’ singles championship (tennis). Named to All-Star tournament team (baseball). Played quarterback in football.
College: Pasadena Junior College, UCLA
Pros: Negro Leagues (1945), MLB (1947-56)
Teams: Kansas City Monarchs (1945), Brooklyn Dodgers (1947-56)
Bottom Line: Jackie Robinson
The rare five-sport athlete, Jackie Robinson played football, basketball, track, tennis and, of course, baseball at John Muir. He did this all in two years as his junior high school ran through 10th grade. Robinson won a state championship as a long jumper and was an All-Southland honorable mention in football.
Robinson’s football career often gets overlooked, but many think he could have played in the NFL if he pursued that sport. He played football at UCLA and led the nation in punt return average while also leading the Bruins in passing, rushing and points scored in 1940.
He broke the major league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and had 1,518 hits and a lifetime .311 batting average over 10 seasons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
High school: Power Memorial Academy (Manhattan, New York)
Key stats: 2,067 career points. Two-time Mr. Basketball USA. 71-game high school winning streak.
Pros: NBA (1969-89)
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (1969-75), Los Angeles Lakers (1975-89)
Bottom Line: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The then-Lew Alcindor was already nearly seven feet tall when he started high school and was known as "The Tower from Power."
He won three city championships and two national championships as the team in his junior year was called "The High School Team of the Century" by national sportswriters. In what would be a sign of things to come in the NBA, Alcindor left Power as New York City’s all-time leader in points scored in high school.
He won three more national championships at UCLA and six more with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
1. Jim Brown
Sports: Football, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, track and field
High school: Manhasset Secondary School (Manhasset, New York)
Key stats: Earned 13 letters. Averaged 14.9 yards per carry. Threw two no-hitters.
Pros: NFL (1957-65)
Teams: Cleveland Browns (1957-65)
Bottom Line: Jim Brown
Before Jim Brown became the greatest running back in NFL history and before he became possibly the greatest lacrosse player in history, Brown was the greatest high school athlete in history. He was a five-sport athlete who averaged nearly 15 yards per carry in football and 38 points per game in basketball.
Little is known about his track or lacrosse performances in high school, but Brown’s success in college tells us he wasn’t too shabby. He finished fifth in the decathlon at the college national championships and also was a two-time All-American in lacrosse while at Syracuse so one can assume he dominated the high school ranks.
Brown’s fifth sport was baseball, and all he did on the diamond was throw two-no hitters and receive interest from the nearby Yankees. The son of a boxer, Brown also took up that sport at a young age, and Syracuse’s boxing coach thought Brown could have been the heavyweight champion if he dedicated himself to that sport.
Even without that extra line on his resume, Jim Brown is undoubtedly the greatest high school athlete we’ve ever seen.