Kareem earns top spot in Best Baller countdown

Kareem earns top spot in Best Baller countdown

Updated: April 3, 2009, 5:51 PM ET
ESPNRISE.com

This week, ESPN RISE takes a look at the top 50 high school basketball players of all time. It's a tough task, and our experts debated the criteria. Disagree with our list? Want to weigh in? Sound off on the conversation page.

5. Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Everett, Lansing, Mich.)
Johnson redefined the position of point guard. At 6-foot-8, he used his height to scan the court and distribute the ball. As a senior, Johnson averaged 28.8 points and 16.8 rebounds while Everett captured the state championship. He earned the moniker "Magic" as a sophomore from a local sports writer after recording a scintillating triple-double in a game. He closed his prep career with 2,012 points (30th all-time in Michigan) and averaged 25.8 points. He won an NCAA national championship with Michigan State in 1979, and two months later, he was the first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. His 17-year NBA career produced five NBA titles, three MVPs and 12 All-Star selections. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Watch highlights of Magic Johnson in high school.

[+] EnlargeOscar Robertson
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesOscar Robertson made history by leading Crispus Attucks to two state titles.

4. LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron, Ohio)
Dubbed "The Chosen One" and "King James," he goes down as high school basketball royalty. He helped the Irish win three Ohio state championships and the mythical national championship as a senior in 2003. He finished his four-year prep career with 2,657 points, 892 rebounds and 523 assists. He was a three-time Mr. Ohio Basketball and two-time Gatorade national player of the year. He was the first pick of the 2003 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, bypassing college (he later said he would have attended Ohio State). A five-time NBA All-Star, James earned an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. men's team in 2008. Watch highlights of LeBron James in high school. LeBron's first national magazine cover was with Student Sports in 2001. Check it out here. For more on LeBron in high school, check out SchoolSports' 2002 feature.

Best Ballers

ESPN RISE is counting down the top 50 high school basketball players of all time. Which players made the cut? Check out Nos. 50-26. On Wednesday, we rolled out Nos. 25-16. You might be surprised with some of the players ranked Nos. 15-6.

On Friday, we crowned the No. 1 player and announced the top five. See who was voted Best Baller.

Check out the full list -- with vote totals.

How did we arrive at this list? Our experts talk about how they voted.

3. Oscar Robertson (Crispus Attucks, Indianapolis)
Robertson received the highest praise when legendary UCLA coach and Indiana native John Wooden called him the greatest high school player he had ever seen. Robertson, who attended a segregated all-black high school, was a pioneer, as Attucks became the first all-black high school to win a state championship after going 33-1 in 1955. When Robertson was a senior, Attucks repeated as champion, with "The Big O" scoring 24 points per game and named Indiana's Mr. Basketball. In his three seasons at the University of Cincinnati, he was tabbed the player of the year and topped the nation in scoring (33.8 points per game). The 6-5 Robertson won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and later won an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks. He is a member of the basketball and college basketball halls of fame. Watch highlights of Oscar Robertson in high school. In the 2002 Student Sports' Boys Basketball Record Book, Doug Huff made the case for Oscar Robertson to be crowned the best prep player of all-time.

2. Wilt Chamberlain (Overbrook, Philadelphia)
"The Big Dipper" might not have been the first great big man (that would be George Mikan), but at 7-1, 275 pounds, he brought athleticism to the post that few have matched. He was an outstanding track and field athlete, excelling in the shot put, 440-yard run and high jump. But ultimately, basketball prevailed, and the prodigy concluded his storied high school career with three Public League and two city championships. His Panthers teams went 56-3, and Chamberlain netted 2,252 points, averaging 37.4 points from 1953 to 1955. At the University of Kansas, he helped the Jayhawks reach the Final Four in 1957 and continued his track prowess by capturing three Big Eight Conference high jump titles. Dissatisfied with the college game for limiting his potential, he left in 1958 for the Harlem Globetrotters. He then played in the NBA for 15 years, winning two titles, scoring a then-record 31,419 points and grabbing 23,924 rebounds. He is a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team and the Basketball Hall of Fame. He died suddenly in 1999 at 63 years old. Watch highlights of Wilt Chamberlain in high school.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Getty ImagesKareem Abdul Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor, put high school basketball on the map.
1. Lew Alcindor (Power Memorial, Manhattan, N.Y.)
When he played at the famed all-male Catholic school on the West Side in the mid-1960s, Alcindor was the most sought after player in high school history. He also changed the high school game forever, vaulting it into the national spotlight by playing in back-to-back years (1964 and 1965) against famed DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.). The 7-2 Alcindor scored 38 points in the first meeting as Power won, but a year later, in front of 12,500 fans, DeMatha won 46-43, halting Power's 71-game win streak. While Alcindor was at Power, the school won three city titles and went 96-6 in three seasons, and he totaled 2,067 points. He later converted to Islam, becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His résumé is staggering: three NCAA national championships and two national player of the year awards at UCLA, six NBA championships, six NBA MVP awards, election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and six NBA records, including for most points (38,387 in 20 years). Watch highlights of Lew Alcindor in high school. Mark Tennis makes the case for Kareem as the Best Baller -- way back in 2002. Richard Lapchick writes about how Abdul-Jabbar's experiences shaped his post-basketball career.


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