Commentary

Ranking McDonald's top 35

McDonald's All-American Games picked the top 35, and ESPNHS ranks them

Updated: March 26, 2012, 10:33 PM ET
By Ronnie Flores | ESPNHS.com

Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, LeBron JamesMcDonald's All American Games/APMichael Jordan (1981), Jason Kidd (1992) and LeBron James (2003) are three of the greatest McDonald's All-Americans of all time.

To celebrate its 35 years, the McDonald's All-American Games named its 35 greatest participants. Players were considered based on their high school career, performance in the McDonald's All-American Games, success at the college and pro levels, and basketball-related accomplishments off the court.

Every name on this list was an accomplished high school player, good enough to be named a McDonald's All-American. But how would you rank each of these players?

We decided to take up the task of ranking them, based strictly on high school accomplishment.

1. Kevin Garnett, Farragut Academy (Chicago), 1995

"The Kid" made prep-to-pro waves 20 years after two prep players were taken in the 1975 NBA draft (Darryl Dawkins, Bill Willoughby). After three standout years at Mauldin (Mauldin, S.C.), Garnett averaged 22.3 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.6 blocks while earning Mr. Basketball USA honors as a senior at Farragut. After a mild start to his pro career, Garnett developed into a NBA All-Star and NBA MVP. In retrospect, he should have been the top pick of the 1995 draft.

2. LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio), 2003

A megastar since middle school, James lived up to tremendous expectations in high school. After winning Mr. Basketball USA honors as a junior, James' individual play and his team exceeded expectations his senior season. They did not lose a game against a national schedule and were named Powerade FAB 50 national champions. James was a great physical specimen in high school and had a combination of explosiveness and court savvy that made him a once-in-a-generation prospect. If he's not the best high school player of the past 35 years, he surely was the most publicized.

3. Alonzo Mourning, Indian River (Chesapeake, Va.), 1988

After averaging 25.2 points, 15.5 rebounds and 10.8 blocked shots per game and leading Indian River to 51 consecutive wins, Mourning was honored as Mr. Basketball USA in one of the strongest classes ever produced. How good was Mourning? Picture a Nerlens Noel-type shot-blocker who played every possession like it was his last. His future college coach, Georgetown's John Thompson, had him in for the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials and it was't a gimmick -- he was one of the last cuts.

4. Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Everett (Lansing, Mich.), 1977

Magic was on the first McDonald's team of 12 players who actually played a group of Washington, D.C.-area high school stars in the McDonald's Capital Classic. Magic had a spectacular senior season, averaging 31 points and 17 rebounds as the center on defense and point guard on offense for a 27-1 team.

5. Clark Kellogg, St. Joseph's (Cleveland, Ohio), 1979

He rates high on our list as the Mr. Basketball USA pick in the greatest class of players since the McDonald's game has been around. After averaging 27.2 points per game as a senior, Kellogg was a standout on the postseason all-star circuit, particularly at the Derby Festival in Louisville where he proved he was an all-time great.

6. Ralph Sampson, Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.), 1979

The most heavily recruited player in this group, Sampson made his home state rejoice when he decided to stay home and attend Virginia instead of leaving for Kentucky. Sampson averaged 29.8 points as a senior. He went on to lead Virginia to the NIT title in 1980 and the Final Four in 1981.

7. Jason Kidd, St. Joseph (Alameda, Calif.), 1992

The best high school point guard in California history, Kidd still holds state career records for assists (1,165) and steals (719). Since 1977, Kidd would rank alongside John Williams (1984) as the best overall high school player in California and his dominance led to team success. In fact, no Northern California team ever won the CIF Division I state title before Kidd came along.

8. Patrick Ewing, Rindge & Latin (Cambridge, Mass.), 1981

The Jamaican-born Ewing was a dominant prep force, averaging 22.7 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 72 percent from the field as a senior. In his final three seasons, Rindge & Latin was 77-1, including a 25-0 mark as a senior. Many know Ewing for leading Georgetown to three NCAA Final Fours and playing on two U.S. Olympic teams, including the famed Dream Team. What few know was he was so good he actually got an Olympic tryout in 1980 as a high school junior, the youngest player ever to tryout for a U.S. senior national team.

[+] EnlargeIsiah Thomas
Courtesy of McDonald'sIsiah Thomas was one of three Chicago products in the 1979 McDonald's All-American Game.

9. Isiah Thomas, St. Joseph's (Westchester, Ill.), 1979

A two-time prep All-American, Thomas ventured more than an hour from his home every morning on Chicago's West Side to play for legendary coach Gene Pingatore. Somewhat overshadowed by Chicago guard Raymond McCoy of Bloom Township as an underclassman, Thomas improved enough to make the 1979 Pan-American team (with Ralph Sampson) after averaging 20.9 points as a senior for Pingatore. He also was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, which wasn't able to compete in Moscow.

10. Shaquille O'Neal, Cole (San Antonio, Texas), 1989

Shaq grew up in a military family and met his future college coach, LSU's Dale Brown, at age 13. Even then, O'Neal already had college size and though he arrived on the national scene a bit late, he was a high school force. He led Cole to a two-year record of 68-1 and averaged 32 points, 22 rebounds and eight blocks while leading the nation in rebounds with 791 as a senior. At the McDonald's All-American Game, O'Neal was named game MVP.

11. Kevin Durant, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.), 2006

Durant spent his junior season at Oak Hill Academy, where he was named an All-American alongside senior teammate Jamont Gordon. The team MVP at Oak Hill that season was actually junior point guard Ty Lawson. As a senior, Durant returned closer to his native Washington, D.C., and led Montrose to a 20-2 record and No. 2 FAB 50 rating. He was considered the No. 2 prospect in his class behind center Greg Oden. While Oden was considered the more dominant player, Durant's MVP performance at the McDonald's All-American Game (25 points) was a prelude of things to come at Texas and in the NBA, where he's considered one of the game's greatest young talents. Durant's career will forever be linked with Oden's because they were chosen 1-2 in the 2007 NBA draft.

12. James Worthy, Ashbrook (Gastonia, N.C.), 1979

Worthy played point guard at times in high school and was favorably compared to his future L.A. Lakers teammate, Magic Johnson. A mature high school player, Worthy averaged 21.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting .594 from the field as a senior. A two-time prep All-American, Worthy developed into a true baseline operator on the next level and led North Carolina to two NCAA title games, winning it all in 1982.

13. Danny Manning, Lawrence (Lawrence, Kan.), 1984

Manning was national junior of the year in 1983 when he led Page (Greensboro, N.C.) to a 26-0 record and No. 2 national rating. When Kansas coach Larry Brown hired Manning's dad, Ed, to his staff, Manning spent his senior season at Lawrence (Lawrence, Kan.) where he was a national player of the year candidate. Before leading the Jayhawks to the 1988 NCAA title, he was one of two preps to earn a tryout for the '84 U.S. Olympic team along with guard Delray Brooks (Indiana).

14. Glenn Robinson, Roosevelt (Gary, Ind.), 1991

The "Big Dogg" led Roosevelt to a state title in the now-defunct Indiana single class tournament by out playing fellow McDonald's All-American Alan Henderson of Brebeuf (Indianapolis) in the championship game. Robinson could put it on the floor like a guard and finish with authority at the rim. He was runner-up to Chris Webber for Mr. Basketball USA and both of them put on a dunking exhibition in the actual game. Webber scored 28 points and Robinson scored 20 to lead the West to victory. After sitting out his freshman season at Purdue, Robinson was a two-time college All-American and developed into the No. 1 pick of the 1994 NBA draft.

15. Dwight Howard, Southwest Atlanta Christian (Atlanta, Ga.), 2004

Howard led tiny Southwest Atlanta Christian to a 30-3 record, a No. 24 ranking in the FAB 50 and the school's first ever Class A state title. The third high school player ever taken as the top overall pick in the NBA draft (Kwame Brown was the first in 2001), Howard quickly developed into one of the NBA's premier centers.

Dominique Wilkins
Courtesy of McDonald'sThe high-flying Dominique Wilkins would go on to become one of the greatest dunkers in basketball history.

16. Dominique Wilkins, Washington (Washington, N.C.), 1979

Legendary McDonald's All-American selection committee member Howard Garfinkel dubbed Dominique "The Human Highlight Film" at his Five-Star Camp and the name stuck throughout his Hall of Fame career. 'Nique competed in every major summer camp and played in five national high school all-star games (players can't do that now) after averaging 30 points and 17 rebounds as a senior. In high school, he showed signs of becoming what he's now considered -- one of the NBA's greatest scoring forwards and a master dunker.

17. Carmelo Anthony, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), 2002

'Melo was a fine player at Towson Catholic in his native Baltimore as an underclassman, but his game blossomed during his senior season at Oak Hill. He led a talented team to a 32-1 record and the No. 2 ranking in the FAB 50. In one memorable game, Oak Hill beat LeBron James' St. Vincent-St. Mary's team with Anthony scoring 34 points to James' 36. At the 25th McDonald's All-American Game, Anthony flashed the talent that surely would have made him a lottery pick in the 2002 NBA draft. Anthony chose to attend college, leading Syracuse to the program's only NCAA title in 2003.

18. Larry Johnson, Skyline (Dallas, Texas), 1987

Football will always be king in Texas and 25 years ago high school hoops was barely on the map in the Lone Star State. Johnson was a four-year starter at Skyline, but as an underclassman was overshadowed by LaBradford Smith of Bay City, still considered the finest prep guard Texas has ever produced. When national scouts got a chance to evaluate Johnson, they were reluctant to rank him No. 1 in the class because he was ranked so embarrassingly low on their lists. After averaging 29 points, 19 rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks as a senior, the Mr. Basketball USA pick signed with SMU but did not qualify. It didn't slow his development, as he turned out the juco ranks for two years before leading UNLV to the 1990 NCAA title.

19. Jerry Stackhouse, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), 1993

This North Carolina native was often compared to Michael Jordan as a prep and their careers had many similarities. Stackhouse, like Jordan, was a college All-American at North Carolina and was an all-state player as an underclassman. Jordan obviously had the stronger pro career, but Stack was the more highly regarded prep. He actually earned All-American honors his junior season at Kinston (Kinston, N.C.) before transferring to Oak Hill his senior season. He was the ringleader on arguably the finest Oak Hill team ever assembled, averaging 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4 assists for the 36-0 mythical national champions.

Derrick Rose
Ed Reinke/APDerrick Rose was part of the star-studded class of 2007 of All-Americans that included Blake Griffin and O.J. Mayo.

20. Derrick Rose, Simeon (Chicago), 2007

Last season's NBA MVP, Rose has developed into the top player from a star-studded class that rivals 1988 and 2004 as the best ever classes behind the famed 1979 class. The West All-Stars coach, Derrick Taylor of California, had an embarrassment of riches on his team with Rose as the point guard, Eric Gordon as the shooting guard, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love as the forwards and Cole Aldrich as the center. His team was so deep it was hard to find playing time for Blake Griffin. The East's star was O.J. Mayo, the Mr. Basketball USA pick for that season. Rose lead Simeon to a 33-2 record and a No. 5 FAB 50 rating and had a big performance in handing No. 1 Oak Hill Academy its only loss, but he wasn't considered the class' top prospect by any major scouting service.

21. Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion (Ardmore, Pa.), 1996

It was evident early on at Lower Merion that Bryant was likely a future pro, but he wasn't a physically dominant specimen the way Alonzo Mourning was before him or LeBron James was afterward. In fact, as an underclassman, Tim Thomas of New Jersey got just as many accolades as the top player in the 1996 class and fellow McDonald's All-American Mike Bibby of Arizona arguably had the more accomplished prep career. Even though Bryant was fully qualified to attend college, he made the leap to the pros. After maturing physically and mentally, he developed into one of the game's all-time greats while leading the Lakers to five NBA titles.

22. Michael Jordan, Laney (Wilmington, N.C.), 1981

Jordan's prep career is one of the most controversial among all-time NBA greats. There is no doubt Jordan was a talented high school player, but he was left off the Laney varsity squad as a sophomore because the team needed more size. Jordan always used the name of the player who was picked ahead of him as motivation for the rest of his career, including an All-American senior season at Laney when he averaged 27.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6 assists. Jordan's scoring record (30 points) at the McDonald's game wasn't surpassed until 1999.

23. Paul Pierce, Inglewood (Inglewood, Calif.), 1995

After leading the Boston Celtics to their first NBA title in more than two decades in 2008, a strong argument was made that Pierce was the greatest player ever produced from California's massive CIF Southern Section. Pierce was an All-American at Kansas and the finest player on the West Coast as a senior at Inglewood. He averaged 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists for a 26-4 state-ranked team. In his last game, he scored 37 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, in a loss to state power Dominguez (Compton, Calif.). He scored 28 points in the McDonald's game. In that game, he actually had to wear the jersey of West teammate Jelani McCoy because some jerseys were stolen prior to tip-off.

24. Grant Hill, South Lakes (Reston, Va.), 1990

The smooth wing wasn't the most hyped player in his class (7-6 center Shawn Bradley of Utah was), nor was he the No. 1 prospect (that honor went to Ed O'Bannon of California), but there was no doubt Hill was an immense talent in high school. He joined a star-studded Duke team and proved to be the missing link the Blue Devils needed. Without Hill, UNLV beat Duke by 30 points in the 1990 NCAA title game but with the 6-foot-7 freshman in the lineup the next season, they upset an even better Rebels team in the national semifinals.

25. Vince Carter, Mainland (Daytona Beach, Fla.), 1995

He'll go down as the most accomplished player the state of Florida has ever produced, unless Amare Stoudemire has a rebirth with the New York Knicks. Carter gave a prelude to what he accomplished at the 2000 NBA All-Star Game (when his performance during the slam dunk contest put him on par with Michael Jordan, Dr. J and Dominique Wilkins as dunkers) when he won the McDonald's Slam Dunk Contest. Carter was an accomplished prep player. As a senior, he led Mainland to its first Class 6A state title in 56 years.

26. Bobby Hurley Jr., St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), 1989

The son of Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr., he played for his dad in high school and led the Friars to the 1989 mythical national title as the lead guard on a team that produced three NBA players. Bobby Hurley was known for his clutch play and leadership, but as a high school and college player he played second fiddle to Kenny Anderson of New York, the 1989 Mr. Basketball USA. Anderson was the second pick of the 1991 NBA draft, while Hurley developed into quite a college player and was the No. 7 pick of the 1993 draft.

27. Chris Paul, West Forsyth (Clemmons, N.C.), 2003

A true point guard, Paul was overshadowed like everyone else in his class by LeBronmania. Still, Paul was an accomplished prep player, averaging 31 points, 8 assists and 6 steals per game while earning state Mr. Basketball honors. In honor of his late grandfather, who was murdered the day after Paul signed his letter of intent to Wake Forest, he scored 61 points in West Forsyth's season opener. There was no consensus No. 2 player in the 2003 class, but at the McDonald's All-American Game, Paul left no doubt he would be an instant impact player in college. He's now considered one of the world's finest players.

28. Chris Mullin, Xaverian (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 1981

The sweet-shooting lefty transferred from New York's Power Memorial and finished his senior season strong after he sat out the first eight games. Xaverian went 3-5 in those games, but finished 19-1 while winning the New York Federation Class A title. Mullin went on to be a force in the Big East and won the 1985 Wooden Award as college basketball's top player. Still, he was somewhat overshadowed in college by players such as Waymon Tisdale, Patrick Ewing and Len Bias.

29. Jay Williams, St. Joseph's (Metuchen, N.J.), 1999

One of 10 players who attended Duke or North Carolina on this list, Williams was arguably the best prep guard in the country upon graduating from St. Joseph's. He was state player of the year as a senior, scored 20 points in the McDonald's All-American Game and maintained a 3.6 GPA. As good as he was in high school, he developed into an even better college player at Duke. His best season came as a sophomore in 2001, when he teamed with Shane Battier to lead Duke to the NCAA title. The next season, he was the NCAA Player of the Year and left Duke as the No. 2 pick in the 2002 NBA draft.

30. Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Proviso East (Maywood, Ill.), 1980

Averaging 22.3 points and eight rebounds, Rivers led Proviso East to a 26-2 record and No. 8 national rating during his senior season. Rivers was considered one of the nation's top two prospects at point guard that year, along with Derek Harper of Florida, and proved it during the McDonald's game in Oakland, Calif., by scoring 20 points. The most ballyhooed prospect that season, center Earl Jones, missed almost half his senior season at Spingarn (Washington, D.C.) and never could live up to the hype that surrounded him.

31. Christian Laettner, The Nichols School (Buffalo, N.Y.), 1988

If this list was solely based on college accomplishments, Laettner would rank near the top with NCAA greats such as Ralph Sampson and Danny Manning. The class of 1988 is considered one of the greatest, but truthfully, Laettner wasn't a consensus top-10 player when he entered Duke. He was as brash as he was talented, and developed into a clutch player for the Blue Devils. He participated in four Final Fours, leading Duke to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and '92.

32. Amare Stoudemire, Cypress Creek (Orlando, Fla.), 2002

A tough home situation caused Stoudemire to jump around to various high schools, but after a show-stopping performance at the 2001 Nike All-American Camp he found a home at Cypress Creek. As a senior, he averaged 29 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots and was named Florida's Mr. Basketball despite Cypress Creek's meager record. He showed why he was considered the nation's best post player with a dominant performance at Madison Square Garden in the McDonald's game.

33. Tyler Hansbrough, Poplar Bluff (Poplar Bluff, Mo.), 2005

One of the state of Missouri's finest prep players along with future U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (1961), Larry Hughes (1997) and 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year Brad Beal, Hansbrough led Poplar Bluff to a 27-4 record and its second consecutive state title as a senior. He finished his prep career with 2,464 points, more than twice as much as any player in school history. As good a high school player as he was, Hansbrough was an even better college player at North Carolina. A four-time All-American known for his work ethic and determination, "Physco T" led the Tar Heels to the 2009 NCAA crown.

34. Sam Perkins, Shaker (Latham, N.Y.), 1980

Perkins only began playing organized basketball his junior year of high school and wasn't nationally known as an underclassman. He developed quickly and averaged more than 28 points and 16 rebounds per game as a senior. In the McDonald's game, Perkins proved his worth and showed the country that the committee made the correct decision in making him a late addition to the roster. He grabbed 24 rebounds, a record that still stands.

35. Kenny Smith, Archbishop Malloy (Middle Village, N.Y.), 1983

Smith wasn't even the best of the four New York City prep All-American guards during the 1982-83 season, but he continued to develop at North Carolina. He was an All-American in 1987 and later helped the Houston Rockets win two NBA titles.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com . Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ESPN TOP HEADLINES