In the NC Sports Hall of Fame and in the city of Charlotte, Steve Smith is home

When he was first notified that he’d earned a spot in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame — the latest honor in a long list of them for the Carolina Panthers legendary receiver — Steve Smith wondered how that could be.


The proud Los Angeles native didn’t grow up in the state, he rationalized. He didn’t go to school in the state, either. Smith told all this to Trip Durham, the executive director of the Hall, when Durham first called and thought aloud: “I don’t understand how I’m eligible.”

Of course, as Durham later explained: Not only was Smith eligible for the honor — his candidacy was undeniable.

Smith was home.

Smith was formally introduced Friday morning into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame on Johnson and Wales’ campus in uptown Charlotte. The auditorium was only a few blocks from Bank of America Stadium, where Smith was not only introduced to the NFL but to North Carolina — the place that proudly claims him.

The city of Charlotte, specifically, is where Smith caught a bulk of his 836 receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns — all Panthers receiving records — in his 13 years as a Panther. It’s where the third-round pick turned five-time Pro Bowl selection tore through opposing defenses and left gashes much larger than his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame and lifted the city in his wake.

In addition to all of that, the Carolinas is where everything is for the Charlotte resident of 16 years. It’s where his foundation, The Steve Smith Family Foundation, is based. It’s where he and his wife, Angie, raised their four children.

“We do a lot of stuff here,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, I started to realize this was home.”

The N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, of course, did too.

Jim Nantz, Bob McKillop, other Charlotte legends inducted into Hall of Fame

Smith was one of 11 people inducted as part of the 2024 class, three of whom made a name in Charlotte. He said that one of the joys of earning this award is learning about the athletes in the generations before him and what they mean to the area.

The three Charlotte-area legends included:

Bob McKillop. The Davidson men’s basketball coach who led the Wildcats to 23 conference championships, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and 634 wins was also honored Friday. Like Smith, McKillop wasn’t born in North Carolina, but he and his wife, Cathy, and children moved to Davidson, just north of Charlotte, in 1989. They soon couldn’t deny that the town and college was “written onto our hearts,” he said. His two sons, Matt and Brendan, played for him when they attended Davidson. Matt became his successor as head coach.

Jim Nantz. The Charlotte native and three-time Emmy Award winner and five-time National Sportscaster of the Year moved around a bunch growing up. His voice has taken him further — from Super Bowls to Final Fours and more. But he holds North Carolina in a special place in his heart, he said Friday: “I get emotional thinking about it. All I’ve ever wanted to do, truly, in my life, was make people proud. Starting with my family, and that extends to the state of North Carolina.”

Pettis Norman. The Charlotte native who played for Johnson C. Smith and later the Cowboys and Chargers was also honored Friday. He couldn’t make the trip due to a health issue, Durham said. Norman finished with 183 catches for 2,492 yards and 15 touchdowns in the NFL. JC Smith’s annual award to its top male and female athletes is named for him.

Randolph Childress, Sheila Ford Duncan, Que Tucker also honored

The other seven honored during Friday’s ceremony included Wake Forest men’s basketball star Randolph Childress; UNC Asheville national champion and 1984 NAIA Player of the Year Sheila Ford Duncan; U.S. Olympian and U.S. Rowing Hall of Famer Caroline Lind; Fayetteville Terry Sanford High School and UConn basketball star Shea Ralph; the late UNC men’s tennis coach Don Skakle (whose award was accepted by his son, Cliff); Mars Hill basketball star and current N.C. High School Athletic Association commissioner Que Tucker; and longtime Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman.