Who’s the best?
It’s a question we never seem to get tired of asking. Whether it’s quarterbacks, baseball players, hamburgers or episodes of Seinfeld, we have opinions, we make lists and we want to debate who or what is No. 1.
Today, The Lima News offers its list of the top 25 boys basketball players in the area in the last 25 years, following last Sunday’s selection of the top 25 girls players.
Just a few reminders of how The Lima News sports department selected this team:
The 25-year span was from the graduating class of 1988 through the graduating class of 2012. No active high school players were considered and if you don’t see a favorite player from the 1980s or 1970s, maybe they — and you — are a little older than you think.
Players considered came from Allen, Auglaize, Putnam, Van Wert, Mercer and Hardin counties, two northern Shelby County schools, one in Paulding county and one in Hancock county, which is how The Lima News defines its high school sports coverage area.
That’s the reason players like Aaron Craft from Liberty-Benton, Ben Roethlisberger from Findlay, Rob Welch and Steve Hall from Wayne Trace, Fort Loramie’s Tom Brandewie or others outside that geographic area don’t appear.
The selection process included both high school and college careers.
In the end, the choice for No. 1 came down to Lima Senior’s Greg Simpson and Lima Central Catholic’s Aaron Hutchins.
The Simpson-Hutchins debate has been raging for two decades. Who was better?
I never enjoyed watching a high school player more than Hutchins. I never saw a player have a better season than he had as a senior at LCC in 1994 when he was Mr. Basketball. Except for a minute and a half in the state championship game, it was as close to a perfect season as a high school basketball player can get.
If I were starting a high school basketball team from the 25 players we chose, he would be my first draft choice.
And yet I ranked Simpson No. 1 on my final ballot when we picked this team.
Simpson was the most athletically gifted individual to play boys basketball in this area in the last 25 years. He was a two-time Mr. Basketball. He was a McDonald’s and Parade Magazine All-American. Then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, wearing a coat that cost more than I earned in a month, came to Lima to watch him play.
He was the biggest show in Ohio high school basketball in the 1991-92 season. People drove to Lima Senior from all around the state to watch him.
But he was also a living, breathing contradiction. At times, he was breathtaking on the court. But off-the-court problems at Ohio State and West Virginia sent his career spinning off the tracks.
If he had made himself play differently in the 1992 Division I state championship game against Lakota, maybe Lima Senior would have won a state title. But if he had played differently earlier that season and throughout his career, maybe Lima Senior never would have made it to that state championship game.
He was not a slam dunk to make the NBA. Comparing him to the bigger, more talented Jim Jackson, as some people around here did, was a stretch.
But he did have great potential and a possible future in the league if he had been able to focus on the goal and develop his game.
The problems often overshadow his talent when people remember him. His conduct grade and his basketball grade were separate when we looked back. That’s how he got to No. 1.
After The Lima News Girls Top 25 appeared in last Sunday’s paper, we began getting suggestions from people about how we should rank the boys.
Simpson, Hutchins and Shawnee’s Jamar Butler, also a Mr. Basketball and the area’s all-time scoring leader, were mentioned first most often.
I had three different versions of my own ballot in my mind. Simpson led one. Hutchins led another. And Evan Eschmeyer was No. 1 on a third.
New Knoxville’s Eschmeyer was a dominant high school player who has touched bases none of the others at the top of this list have reached.
First, he played four years in the NBA, which sets him apart from the others. He had an inspiring story of overcoming injuries to become a three-time first-team All-Big Ten player at Northwestern after missing his first two college seasons.
When five knee surgeries forced him to retire from the NBA at age 29, he successfully transitioned from basketball to real life and earned a law degree and an MBA from Northwestern.
Are the selections of Simpson at No. 1, Hutchins at No. 2 and the rest of the Top 25 perfect?
I don’t know. We tried to make it perfect. But that’s hard to do and everyone has their own opinion.
And if you’re wondering, I’ll go with Joe Montana at quarterback, a 1960s-vintage Willie Mays for baseball player, Kewpee locally and In-N-Out nationally for hamburgers, and I’m more of a Cheers guy than a Seinfeld guy.