Commentary

I'm Lovin' It: Great McDonald's moments

We take a look back at 5 memorable moments and 5 players you should know about

Updated: March 26, 2012, 10:34 PM ET
By Ronnie Flores | ESPNHS.com

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the McDonald's All-American Game, the nation's premier postseason all-star event.

Not only is this a milestone year for the McDonald's event, but history will be made when Chicago hosts the festivities for the second consecutive year. This year's game will take place at the United Center on March 28 (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), the first time the event will be played in the same arena two years in a row.

In honor of the 35th anniversary, we take a look back at five memorable moments in the game's history and five players all aficionados of the game should know about.

Five Memorable Moments


A big Shaq attack
National scouts had never seen 6-foot-11, 250-pound Shaquille O'Neal of Cole (San Antonio, Texas) until the BCI Tournament in Arizona in the spring of 1988, before his senior year. He dazzled with his size and athleticism at the spring tourney, and the country got to see Shaq for the first time at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., in 1989. Early in the game, O'Neal blocked a shot, took the ball coast-to-coast and finished the sequence with a monster jam, which sent announcer Dick Vitale into hyperbole frenzy. O'Neal's West team defeated the East 112-103 as Shaq finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Fab Four on display in Springfield
Plenty of McDonald's All-Americans are impact college freshmen, but college basketball had never seen anything like the Fab Five at the University of Michigan during the 1991-92 season. With five freshmen in the starting lineup, the Wolverines advanced to the NCAA title game. Four of Fab Five gave a prelude of things to come in the 1991 McDonald's game held at the Springfield (Mass.) Civic Center as part of basketball's centennial celebration. Jimmy King had a two-handed baseline dunk early in the game, and co-MVP Chris Webber's tomahawk slam dunk with less than 10 seconds remaining sealed the West's 108-106 win. Webber finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds while playing alongside King, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard. Ray Jackson was the only Michigan recruit who did not play.

Jacobsen makes community proud
Attempting to pick the 24 best players throughout the nation year after year, there is bound to be a glaring omission at some point. Midway through his senior year in 1999, Casey Jacobsen of Glendora (Glendora, Calif.) became the CIF Southern Section's all-time leading scorer, breaking the record of former Glendora standout Tracy Murray, a 1989 McDonald's All-American. Because Jacobsen played for the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the World Youth Games and not the summer camp circuit in 1998, many on the selection committee overlooked him. When Jacobsen wasn't named to the team, McDonald's Selection Committee Chairman Morgan Wootten was bombarded with letters from the Glendora community, including from a class of local eighth-graders who looked up to Jacobsen, and endorsements from college coaches such as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. He was added to the roster and did Glendora proud by scoring 22 points to help the West record a 141-128 win at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

The Chosen One doesn't disappoint
For two years, LeBron James of St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) was the talk of basketball -- and not just high school basketball. The 2003 McDonald's All-American Game was held at Cleveland's Gund Arena, not far from his hometown. Most basketball fans in Ohio already had seen James play, and even the casual ones had seen highlights, but it didn't stop 18,728 people from coming out to support the local prodigy. With his pinpoint passing and open-court explosiveness, James did not disappoint. He was named MVP while scoring 27 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Two months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA draft lottery and took him with the No. 1 pick.

Parker makes McDunk history
The McDonald's All-American festivities had been around 25 years when it was decided to add a girls' game in 2002. The West defeated the East 94-85 at Madison Square Garden, but the girls still needed a star to take their game to the next level. She came two years later in the form of 6-foot-4 Candace Parker of Naperville Central (Naperville, Ill.). She had the charisma and talent to become a household name the along the likes of Magic, Shaq and LeBron. She also could dunk and made history by becoming the first girl to win the McDonald's slam dunk contest held that year in Oklahoma City. Parker went on to college and WNBA stardom.

Five McDonald's All-Americans You Should Know About


Jason Fraser, Amityville Memorial (Amityville, N.Y.), 2002
The 6-foot-9 Fraser didn't do anything particularly memorable during the game at Madison Square Garden, but was considered a surefire college star. He dominated small-school competition in New York, leading Amityville to four Class B state titles, and played well in all-star competition. He attended Villanova, but that's where his own Amityville horror occurred. He endured more than a half dozen surgeries and was never the same player he was on the AAU circuit. The 2002 class was a strong one, but there are only five NBA regulars (Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, J.J. Redick, Amar'e Stoudemire) among a group of can't-miss prospects beset by injury, bad timing, bad advice and, in some instances, bad luck.


Rashard Griffith, Martin Luther King (Chicago), 1993
When you look at a McDonald's souvenir program or research past teams online, you'll run across the name of this 6-foot-11 man-child from the Windy City. Griffith wasn't in the box score, because he didn't actually play due to the NCAA's two all-star game limit. Griffith chose to play in Sonny Vaccaro's Roundball Classic in Detroit and in the Illinois vs. U.S. All-Star game sponsored by Nike. At King, Griffith was a freshman starter on a 32-0 team that went wire-to-wire as the national No. 1 team. As a senior, he led the Jaguars to another unbeaten season, amassing an incredible 117-4 record as a prep.

Dontonio Wingfield, Westover (Albany, Ga.), 1993
Another member of the famed '93 class who didn't quite live up to expectations, Wingfield did play in the game at Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn. He scored 13 points to help the East beat the West, 105-95. The 6-foot-8 forward was considered by many southern scouts as the most dominant prep player in Georgia history. He led Westover to four state titles, but actually finished his senior year academically at Taft (Cincinnati, Ohio) in order to get his academic situation in order. He played his freshman year at Cincinnati, but a long NBA career never panned out. If Wingfield is not Georgia's finest, many feel it's Darrin Hancock of Griffin, a 1990 McDonald's All-American. He too had academic shortcomings and only played one year of Division I basketball before embarking on a brief NBA career.

John Williams, Crenshaw (Los Angeles), 1984
The country's high school stars hit Hollywood for the recruiting soap opera finale of Williams, a 6-foot-8 point forward whose game was patterned after the Lakers' Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Williams led Crenshaw to a Division I state title as a junior and a city title as a senior, scoring 41 points in the title game and a record 156 in the city tournament. Behind the backdrop of wild tales of improper benefits, Williams still hadn't announced his college intentions when the McDonald's Game was played at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. The recruiting pressure obviously didn't faze Williams, as the local star earned MVP honors with 27 points and 16 rebounds to lead the West to a 131-106 victory. Williams eventually signed with LSU, but weight problems stymied his NBA career.

Dereck Whittenburg, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), 1979
He almost never got the opportunity to be a McDonald's hero. A late fill-in for injured Jimmy Braddock of Baylor Prep (Chattanooga, Tenn.), he sank two free throws to send the game into overtime. Whittenburg, whose backcourt mate at famed DeMatha was fellow McDonald's All-American Sidney Lowe, also nailed a jump shot in overtime to give the East team a lead it would not relinquish in a 106-105 victory. Whittenburg was also the hero for the D.C. metro team at the McDonald's Capital Classic. Against the heavily favored U.S. team, he nailed a deep corner jumper with eight seconds remaining to secure the 86-85 victory. He teamed up with Lowe in college, and in the 1983 NCAA title game, Whittenburg let fly another long-range jumper as time was about to run out -- and it came up a bit short. Miraculously, teammate Lorenzo Charles slammed home the shot to give NC State a dramatic win over heavily favored Houston.

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