The city of 94,600 has produced Michael Jordan, Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, quarterback Roman Gabriel and Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen, among other sports stars.
21 Babe Ruth
As a 19-year-old rookie in the East Carolina League, the Bambino hit his first professional home run, in Fayetteville on March 7, 1914.
For North Carolina's top 50 homegrown sports figures, go to SI.com/50
Michael Jordan, Basketball player
The three-sport standout at Wilmington's Laney High was college basketball's player of the year at UNC in 1984. MJ went on to win two Olympic gold medals and, with the Chicago Bulls, five NBA MVP awards, 10 scoring titles and six championships.
Richard Petty, Race car driver
Over 34 years the King, who is from Randleman, won the Daytona 500 and NASCAR's season title seven times and set records for total victories (200), wins in a season (27, in 1967) and poles (127). He followed father Lee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in '97.
Buck Leonard, Baseball player
The durable and talented first baseman, known as the black Lou Gehrig, got his start as a semipro player in Rocky Mount in the early 1930s. In 17 years in the Negro leagues he batted more than .300 and ranked among the leaders in home runs, hitting 42 in '42.
David Thompson, Basketball player
Raised in Shelby, the Skywalker starred for N.C. State's 1974 national champion team and was a three-time All-America. He is the only player to win MVP honors in an ABA All-Star Game (with Denver in '76) and an NBA All-Star Game (with Denver in '77 and 79).
Dale Earnhardt, Race car driver
Before his 2001 death at Daytona, where he had a track-record 34 victories, the Kannapolis native had been NASCAR's season points leader seven times. He ranks sixth alltime in career wins (76) and second in Winston Cup earnings (more than $41 million).
John Lucas, Basketball and tennis player
At Hillside High in Durham he won three state titles in tennis and broke Pete Maravich's single-season state scoring mark in basketball. After twice earning All-America honors in both sports at Maryland, Lucas played 14 years in the NBA and coached for six seasons.