Hoop season is right around the corner, and the Fayetteville Observer is creating buzz by taking a look at the nine courts that have contributed to North Carolina's rich basketball history.
First up is Fred Lynch and Ruby Sutton Court at Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, where Michael Jordan pieced together the earliest parts of his hoop legacy. As a senior at Laney, Jordan was named a McDonald's All American after averaging a triple-double: 29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists. He went on to become an NCAA champion, six-time NBA champion and is arguably the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.
Laney's gym was renamed Michael J. Jordan Gymnasium during the summer of 1996.
You're already aware of Laney High School — you likely bought the Bucs-inspired 1 and 5 Jordan retros last year. However, here are 5 facts you probably didn't know, as told by the Fayetteville Observer.
1. Laney High School was built in 1976 to serve the Northwest portion of New Hanover County. The Jordan Gymnasium is the only one the school has, so each day it’s in constant use with gym classes and afternoon practices.
2. Jordan isn’t the only person to have their name honored in the gym. The court is named after Fred Lynch and Ruby Sutton, both longtime coaches at the school. Hanging on one end are four banners representing the boys’ and girls’ basketball players whose numbers have been retired. In addition to Jordan’s No. 23, there’s the No. 40 of boys’ all-time leading scorer and former NBA player Kevin Whitted, and the Nos. 11 and 12 of girls’ basketball stars Tamera Young and Qwedia Wallace, both of which went on to play in the pros.
3. The walls of the gym are ringed with banners showing the titles the various Buccaneers teams have won. As for the teams that call the gym home, the volleyball team has five conference titles on its banners, the girls’ basketball team shows three conference titles – athletics director Fred Lynch admits the banner needs to be updated with the squad’s recent success – and the boys’ team shows six league championships. Oddly enough, the earliest of those came in 1984, well after Jordan had graduated.
4. The gym was used as the home for the Tree Hill High School basketball team during the first few seasons of the teen drama “One Tree Hill.” It’s where fictitious half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott led the Ravens to a state title despite gripping personal drama. The scenes in the gym were filmed on weekends and were followed by whirlwind cleanups to get it ready for school on Mondays. Buccaneers coach Nathan Faulk said he’ll get people wanting to tour the gym because of its connection to the show who are largely uninterested in its connection to Jordan.
5. Jordan’s jersey, the one that Nike has often sold replicas of, isn’t on display anywhere in the gym or in the trophy case in the hallway just beyond its doors. It used to be. But after it was stolen, and later mysteriously returned, Lynch decided to keep it hidden. The school is still deciding where it will finally end up.
Laney images via Raul R. Rubiera