The 10 Best High School Basketball Players of All Time

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterOctober 16, 2013

The 10 Best High School Basketball Players of All Time

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    When recognizing the 10 best high school ballers of all time, there's a lot to take into account.

    While there's no scientific formula, wins, statistics and impact on the sport all came into play. It's always difficult to compare players from completely different eras, but if it weren't for some fellas dating back to the early 1950s, we might not be writing, tweeting or posting about high school phenoms like Andrew Wiggins today.

    Our top 10 high school players of all time includes some of the NBA greats you see today, and some of the legends your grandparents saw roughly 60 years ago.

10. Jason Kidd, St. Joseph Notre Dame, Alameda, California

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    California's current all-time assist leader, Jason Kidd was a human high school talent show.

    And like we've seen them do in the pros, his basketball IQ, unselfishness and undeniable instincts translated directly to team success. Kidd and St. Joseph Notre Dame won back-to-back state titles in '91 and '92.

    He was also named California's Player of the Year twice, as well as the Naismith Player of the Year which recognized him as the top player in the country.

    Mitch Stephens of Max Preps called Kidd the "best high school basketball player I ever covered."

    He's currently the nation's all-time high school leader in steals, and ranks No. 5 overall in assists.

     

     

9. Bill Walton, Helix High, San Diego, California

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    Bill Walton had a high school season that's simply hard to believe.

    As a senior, he finished with averages of 29 points and 25 rebounds a game, while shooting an astounding 78 percent from the floor. Helix went undefeated that year with a 33-0 record and a state championship to show for it.

    A dominant force with a live motor, Walton finished his high school career on a 49-game win streak with two state titles and an incredible head of red hair.

    He suffered a number of injuries along with the way that eventually cut his career short, but no back pain or broken bone can erase what he was able to accomplish at Helix.

     

8. Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion, Philadelphia, Pennslyvania

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    Despite his accomplishments as a high school junior and senior, 12 NBA teams weren't sold on his long-term outlook. And the one that drafted him decided to flip him for Vlade Divac.

    Pennsylvania's Player of the Year in 1995, Bryant went for 31 points, 10.4 boards and 5.2 assists a game as a junior. And just when he hit NBA radars, Bryant upped himself and his draft stock as a high school senior.

    From USA Today to Parade Magazine, Bryant swept up every National Player of the Year Award that was out there. He had led Lower Merion to its first AAAA state title in 53 years, finishing his last three seasons with a 73-13 record.

    With 2,883 career points, Bryant had outscored Wilt Chamberlain to set the all-time mark in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

    After being selected as a lottery pick in 1996, Bryant helped spark an era that saw a number of high schoolers declare early, and influence a few NBA teams to bite. 

    Even on Jonathan Bender and Darius Miles.

     

     

     

     

     

7. Oscar Robertson, Crispus Attucks High School, Indiana

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    Oscar Robertson and Crispus Attucks High School made history back in 1955.

    An all-black high school in a white man's world, Attucks' became the first of its kind to win a state title, which it repeated in 1956. Robertson averaged 24 points a game as a senior and was named the state of Indiana's Mr. Basketball.

    The only NBA player to date to ever average a triple-double, the Big O's versatility was simply unprecedented.

    His second state title capped a 45-game win streak, and a historically significant high school career.

6. Jerry Lucas, Middletown High, Middletown, Ohio

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    Anyone who recalls Jerry Lucas almost always starts with his high school career.

    The Ohio Player of the Year from 1956 to 1958, Lucas' production translated to a a shocking 78-1 record over that span.

    As a sophomore, he earned praise for dropping 53 and 44 points in back-to-back state-tournament games. Lucas finished his prep career with two state championships to go with three Player of the Year awards and a whole bunch of Ohio records.

    He's also regarded as one of the first to be recognized nationally at the high school level. He was being written up in articles and flocked to by fans.

    A dominant presence on the scoreboard and the glass, Lucas ultimately joined Magic Johnson and Quinn Buckner as the only basketball players to win a championship in high school, college, the NBA and the Olympics.

5. Kevin Garnett, Farragut Academy, Chicago, Illinois

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    Kevin Garnett started a high school trend that nearly spiraled out of control.

    He became the first kid in 20 years to bypass college for the NBA draft, prompting a flurry of future prospects to follow his lead.

    Garnett's final two years in school made the high school-to-pro jump seem plausible. He averaged 27 points and 17 boards for Maudlin High, winning South Carolina's Mr. Basketball and carrying his school to the state championship game.

    Garnett transferred to Farragut Academy in Chicago for his senior season, where he continued to overwhelm the competition. Farragut finished with a 28-2 record, a city title and an appearance in state quarterfinals. Garnett finished as Illinois' Mr. Basketball, USA Today's National Player of the Year, and with eye-popping averages of 25 points, 17.9 boards, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks per game.

    After being named Most Outstanding Player of the McDonald's All-American game, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him No. 5 overall.

    Thanks to Garnett, we're still having annual conversations regarding draft-age eligibility.

4. Magic Johnson, Everett High School, Lansing, Michigan

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    Magic Johnson wasn't Magic until high school, when he captivated fans and the media with basketball wizardry.

    After dropping a mean 36-point, 16-assist, 16-rebound triple-double as a sophomore, a sports writer decided Erving needed a flashier nickname.

    And for what it's worth, I approve.

    Magic finished his high school career with a 25-point-per game average, but really left his mark as a senior. He averaged 28 points and 16 boards, leading his troops to a 27-1 record and a Michigan state title.

    At around 6'8'', nobody had ever seen a player who can handle the ball at the point, score from the wing or shake in the post.

    From what I hear, those skills translated beautifully to both the college and NBA levels.

3. Wilt Chamberlain, Overbrook High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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    I'm not sure there's a basketball list that Wilt Chamberlain isn't on.

    It was probably hard to miss a 7'1'' athlete back in 1953, never mind one who can shake and bake in the post.

    And though I wasn't on the sideline scouting, I know a guy who knows a guy who knew a guy who said that Wilt Chamberlain was really, really good.

    I believe him. Chamberlain averaged over 37 points a game in three years at Overbrook, leading them to three public league and two city championships.

    At one point in his final season, Chamberlain poured in 74, 78 and 90 points consecutively over a three-game stretch. There was clearly nobody in this hemisphere capable of matching up with the "Big Dipper."

    He finished his high school career with a staggering 56-3 record and over 2,000 points. 

     

     

     

2. LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron, Ohio

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    LeBron James changed the way we think and speak about young NBA prospects.

    Looking back, we should start referring to high school basketball in terms of "BL" and "AL," as in Before LeBron and After LeBron.

    There was actually demand for recruiting coverage After LeBron. He showed it was possible to be that big and hold that much star power, despite not being old enough to drive. And now fans and scouts alike all turned the lights on to their miner helmets in hopes of discovering the next LeBron James.

    As a freshman at St. Mary-St. Vincent, he dropped 25 in the championship game to win the Division III state title. His team went back-to-back the next year, with James finishing the season as the only sophomore ever to be selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team.

    Soon after, James became the first junior to win the National Player of the Year. So it shouldn't be a surprise he won it again the following year.

    He averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 boards and 4.6 assists his final high school season, while his team finished the year with the top national ranking. By the time he was a senior, James' face had been on magazine covers, television screens and the top of every NBA team's draft board.

    He set a bar that should stand strong for a while. And because it's there, we now have a reason to keep an eye on it—to see if anyone can reach it. 

    Never have so many eyes been on high school basketball, and we can credit that to the kid once dubbed "The Chosen One."

     

     

1. Lew Alcindor, Power Memorial, Manhattan, NY

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    Though he might have made his money as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it was Lew Alcindor who changed the game back in high school.

    Alcindor stood over 7'0'' tall, where he looked down on opponents and up to a future that still hasn't been topped. The NBA's current all-time leading scorer was an absolute dominant high school force before taking names as a pro.

    He led Power Memorial to three straight city titles from 1964 to 1966, at one point winning 71 consecutive games.

    Alcindor finished his career at Power with over 2,000 points and 2,000 rebounds, unheard of numbers and New York City records. Team-wise, he went 95-6 in a three-year span.

    He became one of the biggest recruiting prizes in sports history, and one that paid off when he arrived at UCLA. He won three national championships and two National Player of the Year awards as a Bruin.

    But prior to changing his name, tearing up college hoops and dazzling NBA fans with soft sky hooks, Alcindor was the first to generate enormous high school basketball buzz.