Dynamic Duos: Best in State History

Two of the greatest players in WNBA history -- Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson -- not only are both from the same high school but played on the same team. Photo: Cal-Hi Sports archives.

Two of the greatest players in WNBA history — Lisa Leslie & Tina Thompson — are both from the same school and almost played on the same team. Photo: Cal-Hi Sports archives.

Lisa Leslie & Tina Thompson (both from Morningside of Inglewood) making the WNBA all-time top 20 team two weeks ago inspired us to come up with a list of the top 10 duos who are from the same high school at generally the same time.

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Dynamic duos in sports can be a corny phrase, but when they are two players from the same school it can create all sorts of possibilities.

At the high school level, we at Cal-Hi Sports were reminded of the greatest duo from any one high school that we’ve ever covered last week when the WNBA announced its top 20 players from its first 20 seasons.

Believe it not, but both Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson, two of the WNBA’s all-time best, are both from Morningside of Inglewood High in Southern California. Leslie led Morningside’s 1990 team that went 32-3 and won the CIF Division I state title over Berkeley in a game played at the Oakland Coliseum Arena (now Oracle Arena).

Thompson, in fact, once broke Leslie’s record as the all-time career scoring leader in the WNBA and they also were teammates on two U.S. Olympic teams that won gold medals.

We had thought for a long time that Leslie and Thompson were on the same team at Morningside, but learned just after posting this story initially that they actually missed each other by one season. Thompson tweeted us and said she didn’t start attending high school until the 10th grade so she did not become a teammate of Leslie’s until both were at USC.

What we remember most about that Morningside team from 1990, however, was after that state final and the press conference, Leslie collapsed in a hallway at the arena, which concerned everybody because it wasn’t too many weeks after Hank Gathers had collapsed and died while playing at Loyola Marymount. Thank goodness, Lisa was just dehydrated.

Even if those two were on the same prep team, they still can’t be considered the greatest pair of athletes to ever be teammates at the same time on the same high school team.

That label, not just for California but probably the entire nation, would have to go to the McClymonds of Oakland boys basketball team of 1952, which had one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, Frank Robinson, and one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, Bill Russell. Robinson actually was better than Russell at the time in basketball because it wasn’t until Russell got to USF that he began to dominate.

With those dynamic duos in mind, here would be our top 10 in California history:

McClymonds of Oakland can count all-time greats in several different sports as among its alums, but perhaps no one as great as basketball's Bill Russell.

McClymonds of Oakland can count all-time greats in several different sports as among its alums, but perhaps no one as great as basketball’s Bill Russell.

1. Bill Russell & Frank Robinson (McClymonds, Oakland) basketball

Robinson went on to a baseball career, of course, and is the only player ever to win MVP awards in both the American and National League. He’s also still in the top 10 all-time for career homers and was the first African American to be a manager. Russell is one of the most iconic figures in U.S. sports history due to winning 11 NBA titles in 13 years. We could have listed Robinson with two other McClymonds baseball teammates on this list – Vada Pinson and Curt Flood – but only went with the one listing from the one school.

2. Lisa Leslie & Tina Thompson (Morningside, Inglewood) basketball

After the first duo, it’s debatable which duo should be considered second. These two are not just two of the top 20 in WNBA history, but definitely two of the top 10 and maybe even more. The only player in WNBA history from California who’s considered in their mix for sure would be Diana Taurasi (Chino Don Lugo).

3. Eddie Murray & Ozzie Smith (Locke, Los Angeles) baseball

These two future MLB Hall of Famers were two years apart but on the same Locke of L.A. baseball team that played in the CIF L.A. City Section semifinals in 1971. Murray was a senior and hit .500 while Smith was a sophomore. Murray became only the third player in MLB history to get 500 homers and 3,000 hits (Willie Mays & Hank Aaron were the first two) and he’s often called the second best switch hitter of all-time behind Mickey Mantle. Smith actually went into the Hall of Fame one year after Murray (too bad in a way they couldn’t have been inducted on the same day) and also was voted in on the first ballot. He’s regarded as the best defensive shortstop ever and was voted into the All-Star Game 15 times.

4. Mark & Dave Schultz (Palo Alto) wrestling

Both Schultz brothers were Olympic gold medal winners and are legendary figures in the sport of wrestling. Dave Schultz was murdered in January of 1996 near his home in Pennsylvania.

5. Helen Wills & Helen Jacobs (Anna Head School, Berkeley) tennis

We’re really reaching back into the 1920s and 1930s for these two, but why not? The two Helens were two years apart, grew up in the same neighborhood and had the same coach. They obviously didn’t play on the same high school team but went to the same school and it appears at the same time (at least for one year). Wills went on to win at Wimbledon eight times. One of the years she didn’t win at Wimbledon, in 1936, Jacobs won. Jacobs also won the U.S. Open title four times. Wills won the U.S. Open seven times. They weren’t sisters like Venus and Serena Williams, but they might as well have been. In 1979, the Anna Head School for girls was merged with Royce School and became Head-Royce of Oakland.

6. Chris Von Saltza & Lynn Burke (Los Gatos) swimming

These were the first two prep phenom swimmers from the same high school to win gold medals at the Olympics. That would be the 1960 Olympics in Rome where Von Saltza won three golds (one in the 400-meter freestyle) and Burke won two (one in the 100-meter backstroke). The two hadn’t even started college yet. Eight years later at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, classmates Debbie Meyer and Sue Pederson (both from Rio Americano of Sacramento) combined for seven medals. Meyer won three golds while Pederson won two golds and two silver.

Alex Smith of Utah and Reggie Bush of USC were two of the top college football players in the nation early in the 2000s. They previously were teammates at Helix of La Mesa. Photo: Sportster.com.

Alex Smith of Utah and Reggie Bush of USC were two of the top college football players in the nation early in the 2000s. They previously were teammates at Helix of La Mesa. Photo: Sportster.com.

7. Reggie Bush & Alex Smith (Helix, La Mesa) football

These two were on the same Helix teams when the Highlanders were 13-0 in 2000 and 12-1 in 2001. Smith was a senior and Bush was a junior in 2001. They became the first players from the same high school team to be invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation in 2004 when Smith was quarterback at Utah and Bush was at running back at USC. The next year Bush won the Heisman, but later returned it due to a USC improper benefits scandal. Smith was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in 2005. Both have gone on to solid NFL careers but aren’t Hall of Famers like Lisa Leslie & Tina Thompson or Ozzie Smith & Eddie Murray.

8. Bob & Mike Bryan (Rio Mesa, Oxnard) tennis

There have been several twin brother combos we could have put on this list, including Brook & Robin Lopez (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial) for basketball plus Jason & Jarron Collins (North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake) for basketball, but the Bryans got the listing for what they’ve accomplished in tennis. They are, in fact, the greatest doubles pairing in men’s tennis ever. When they won the doubles title at the 2013 Wimbledon championships, they became the first duo to hold all four major titles at the same time – Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

9. Tayshaun Prince & Tyson Chandler (Dominguez, Compton) basketball

When Tayshaun was a senior and Tyson was a freshman, the Dons went 26-5 and Tayshaun was Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year. Chandler followed as Mr. Basketball twice in both his junior and senior seasons (2000, 2001). They both went on to become first-round NBA draft picks (Chandler went at No. 2 right after his senior year at Dominguez) and both went on to be key players for teams that won NBA titles (Prince with the Detroit Pistons and Chandler with the Dallas Mavericks).

10. Denean & Sherri Howard (Kennedy, Granada Hills) track & field

These two led Kennedy to the 1980 CIF state team title and also were both National Athletes of the Year, according to Track & Field News. In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, they both won gold medals as part of the U.S. 4×400 relay team (although Denean didn’t run in the final). They both qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 (the first sisters to do so in the same event at the same time) but unfortunately that was the year the U.S. boycotted the Olympics that were held in Moscow.

Some others that just missed:

Mark Carrier & Leonard Russell (Long Beach Poly) football
Dick Ellsworth & Jim Maloney (Fresno) baseball
Pat Haden & John McKay (Bishop Amat, La Puente) football
Joe Morgan & Rudy May (Castlemont, Oakland) baseball

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. James Henderson
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Paul Silas and Joe Ellis from McClymonds High in the early 60’s were a great duo.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted July 7, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      Almost wrote them up but decided to just use the one from McClymonds. Definitely should have mentioned them. Thanks.

  2. rr6885
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    At first I thought Ed and Charles O’Bannon from Artesia could of made the “just missed” list. With a high school state championship and a NCAA National Championship together.
    But not so much a “Dynamic Duo” on those championship teams.

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