Tournament Bracket Host Site Locations
Holiday Classic Dates: December 20 - 23 , 2021
Thank you to all the sponsors who helped make the 46th Frank Spencer Holiday Classic a success.
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist - tournament sponsor
Pepsi - bracket sponsor
Academy Sports - gift cards to the teams in the final games
DLR group - t-shirt sponsors
Through the second quarter of the 20th Century, the high school basketball event Frank Spencer created at age 20 was “the world’s largest sports tournament” according to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the Google-size authority of the day on such things. Spencer, the eventual Sports Editor of The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel, placed his passion for the game into motion in 1926 and the Northwest North Carolina Basketball Tournament was born.
Over the next 25 years, 25,000+ players played in 1900+ games in an event that embraced 22 counties to the north and west of Winston-Salem. In the final year of its first incarnation, 158 teams played over a month to determine a champion before cumulative crowds approaching 30,000. But the tournament was more than entertainment and competition to Spencer, whose event predated by a decade the introduction of basketball into the Olympics in 1936 in Berlin.
The number of gymnasiums in the region swelled from a dozen to 300+ during the first phase of Frank Spencer’s holiday classic, largely because of his relentless advocacy for the sport he cared so deeply about. During the third quarter of the century and one year following Spencer’s death on New Year’s Eve 1973, the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic returned in much the same form it exists today. It remains the premier platform for Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools and area rivals to compete for annual basketball bragging rights between Christmas and the anniversary of Spencer’s passing.
This year’s Frank Spencer Holiday Classic is the 46th of the modern era and the 71st overall, as coaches and administrators begin to strategically plan for the 100th anniversary of the storied tournament in 2026. The tournament is played over three days, consisting of 24 games in three different venues including the finals at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum near the campus of Wake Forest University. Sixteen high schools from three Counties with over 200 athletes compete annually for championships in two brackets in the event, which annually attracts over 5000+ spectators.
The first tournament was won in 1926 by Winston-Salem High School, now R.J. Reynolds HS which joins North Forsyth HS as presenting schools for the 2021 Frank Spencer Holiday Classic. The first championship team was led by future Winston-Salem Mayor George Lentz, one of a long list of notable players in the event that includes NBA players Chris Paul and Josh Howard. Bryson Gym at RJRHS, one of the three venues for this year’s tournament, is believed to be one of the gymnasiums in the region built behind Frank Spencer’s strong push for facilities in which his beloved game could be played.
During the event’s early stages, Spencer said “there has never been anyone to speak for basketball. In its first 40 years, it barely got off the ground. It is too good a sport to waste and intend to speak for it as long as I have a breath in my body.” Which he did. There is little doubt that his legacy lives on each December when area players, coaches and fans begin to debate who will win “The Frank” and the bragging rights they’ll carry proudly for a full year. Most do not know how essential the man was whose first name has become synonymous with both the premier holiday prep tournament in the region AND with establishing North Carolina as one of the most passionate basketball states in the country.