Commentary

Which state reigns in boys' basketball?

Updated: January 20, 2009, 12:49 PM ET
By Mark Tennis | ESPNRISE.com

New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit boast many playground basketball legends. The common assumption is that the sport is dominated by players who grew up in those places.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul
Mark Goldman/Icon SMI Will Chris Paul lead North Carolina to the Great State title?

But in looking over any list of the best players in NBA history and where they went to high school, there are certainly just as many -- if not more -- who are from small towns or smaller cities.

An all-time roster of those players would include LeBron James (Akron, Ohio); Michael Jordan (Wilmington, N.C.); Larry Bird (French Lick, Ind.); Jerry West (East Bank, W. Va.); Charles Barkley (Leeds, Ala.); John Havlicek (Bridgeport, Ohio); Moses Malone (Petersburg, Va.); Kevin McHale (Hibbing, Minn.) and many more.

That is just one reason why ESPN RISE is launching its second Great State Debate, this time for basketball. The question posed to SportsNation: Which state is the best in boys' basketball?

Our first Great State Debate, staged this past fall, asked which state is the best in football. In the end, Texas beat out Florida in the final vote.

We believe the same kind of statewide pride that was so evident in football fans in Texas, Ohio, California, Pennsylvania and Florida will be revealed in different states -- like Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and New York -- for basketball.

Just as in football, several states have long-standing traditions of basketball fervor and have been dominant in producing great players and highly ranked teams.

Six of the states listed above have already been seeded directly into the final group of our Great State Debate for basketball. Based on lists of where players went to high school, the number of teams that have been ranked nationally in recent years, and other factors, the editors of ESPN RISE have selected New York as the No. 1 seed, followed by Illinois at No. 2, California at No. 3, Pennsylvania at No. 4, Michigan at No. 5 and New Jersey at No. 6.

It was especially difficult to choose the No. 5 and No. 6 positions. Michigan got the nod for No. 5 thanks to the talent produced by Detroit as well as additional greatness from places such as Flint, East Lansing and Saginaw. New Jersey took the No. 6 slot in a close call over several other states. The Garden State boasts so many top-ranked teams in recent years, including last season's FAB 50 No. 1 St. Anthony of Jersey City and FAB 50 No. 2 St. Benedict's of Newark.

In a different twist, compared to what was done in the football debate, the basketball Great State Debate invites fans to determine the No. 7 and No. 8 states (in football, the entire eight-state bracket was seeded and completed before any voting took place).

The six additional states that have been selected for the play-in vote are: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Ohio, Washington, Louisiana and Florida are among the states that just missed the cut.

This week, we'll look at the merits of the six states vying for the final two spots in the bracket. Voting will begin Monday, Jan. 26 and close Jan. 28.

Agree with our choices? Want to make the case for your state? Sound off in the conversation page below. We'll feature the best of the debate in the next few days.

Mark Tennis is the deputy sports editor of ESPNRISE.com.