Three Groundbreaking Sports Stars You Never Knew Were From North Carolina

kevin burge north carolina

North Carolina is packed with sporting talent. There are so many world-renowned teams in the state that it’s hard to keep up with all the sporting news. However, alongside the excellent teams, some fantastic sports stars come from the state, too.

Whether you love the Carolina Panthers or prefer to watch NASCAR racing, there are athletes from across the state. Read on to find out about three sports stars you never knew were from North Carolina.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is arguably the most famous sports player to ever exist. Although he was born in Brooklyn, New York, his family moved to North Carolina in 1968 when Jordan was only five. He attended high school in the state and went on to study at the University of North Carolina. Kevin Burge believes that college basketball in the state is dedicated and competitive — something that helped Jordan significantly as he developed his skills.

Some of Jordan’s earliest major games were with the North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball team. He moved straight from the team to the Chicago Bulls, showing how impressive his skills already were. The basketball star even won the NCAA player of the year award during his second season, making the items he wore legendary. In May 2021, a jersey that he wore during his second season with the team sold for a whopping $1.38 million. 

Jordan has gone on to have a long and varied career. As well as being one of the best basketball players of all time, he has played minor league baseball and recently announced that he would be fielding a NASCAR team. He also starred in the classic movie Space Jam and launched successful clothing, including Nike Air Jordan sneakers. Jordan doesn’t currently live in the state, but North Carolina residents are still proud of the basketball star that they produced.

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Some North Carolina residents haven’t heard of golfer Estelle Lawson Page — but her impact touches the lives of many athletes. Page was born in 1907 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and lived in the state until she died in 1983. 

Page was a multi-talented athlete, playing tennis and basketball — unsurprising as her father, Bob Lawson, was the first athletic director of the University of North Carolina. However, she is most famous for her golfing prowess.

Throughout her career, Page won many of the most high-profile competitions in the country. Significant wins included seven North and South Women’s Amateurs and the US Amateur Championship in 1937. Page was also a founder of the North Carolina Women’s Golf Association and became its first president in 1950. These triumphs led to her inclusion in the first batch of sportspeople inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Although Page has not attained the same level of fame as stars like Jordan, her impact on women’s sport has been huge. In a period when being taken seriously as a female athlete was very difficult, she proved her talent time and time again.

Richard Petty

Fans of NASCAR will definitely know who racing superstar Richard Petty is. Nicknamed “The King,” Petty raced stock cars between 1958 and 1992. His experience and determination led him to receive a wide range of accolades. In addition to being the All-Time Wins leader in NASCAR Cup Series, he had the most all-time wins at Daytona Speedway and the most consecutive NASCAR Cup Series wins. It’s fair to say that Petty has earned his nickname.

North Carolina has a long tradition of NASCAR. The Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord draws fans from across the country, which means that Petty, who was born in Level Cross, was immersed in NASCAR from a young age. His father was also a NASCAR racer, so Petty had a chance to hone his skills from an early age by working as part of his pit crew.

Petty is highly respected in the NASCAR community. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, named one of NASCAR’s top 50 greatest drivers in 1998 and became the first Motorsports athlete to be awarded a Medal of Freedom in 1992. Although he is now 84 and no longer races, Petty remains highly involved in the sport through the Richard Petty Motorsports company.

North Carolina — Major Contributor to the World of Sports

North Carolina is filled with sporting talent. From pioneer Estelle Lawson Page to multi-talented Michael Jordan, it has no shortage of famous athletes. In fact, Kevin describes the rich sporting culture of North Carolina as one of the best things about the state. The deep-rooted tradition will likely continue to produce some of the world’s most respected competitors. 

Kevin Burge
Kevin Burge writes about local sports.