Aside from a love for hoops, it would seem that Lucas and Nathan are two young men with little in common, but they are bound by the dark secret that they share the same father.
Arrogant and assured, Nathan is the star of the high school basketball team and hails from a wealthy family. Quiet and driven, Lucas is the only child of a single working mom. He is also a legendary playground basketball player.
After growing up on opposite sides of the tracks in the same small town of Tree Hill, North Carolina, the two boys' lives suddenly collide when a twist of fate puts Lucas on Nathan's high school basketball team and the half-brothers compete, not only for control of the court, but also for the heart of Nathan's beautiful girlfriend Peyton Sawyer.
While the teenagers struggle to find their places in the world, the adults in Tree Hill are dealing with the residue of decisions they made years ago. Nathan's father Dan and Lucas' mother Karen were high school sweethearts. When Karen became pregnant during their senior year, she was devastated by Dan's decision to put his own life and career first. He went off to college on a basketball scholarship, leaving Karen behind to raise their son Lucas alone. When Dan's dream of a basketball career didn't work out, he returned to town with the wife he met in college and his new son, Nathan. Now a wealthy businessman and one of the biggest fish in the small pond of Tree Hill, Dan lives his basketball dreams through Nathan.
Lucas and Nathan's new rivalry on and off the court has even brought back old emotions for the grizzled basketball coach, Whitey Durham. Whitey coached Nathan's father, Dan, when he was the school's star player, and now he is coaching both of Dan's sons. He knows he is partly responsible for Dan's decision to not give up his scholarship when Karen became pregnant, and he has to juggle conflicting responsibilities and loyalties toward the two boys.
Years in the making, a deep and bitter conflict slowly unfolds as the two boys struggle to come to terms with who they really are and a father who has chosen to live vicariously through one son, while ignoring the existence of the other.