I saw this article about the Top 100 basketball players in Illinois High School history. It’s impressive. I have played against some of them.
If I were doing the list, I would have had separate lists for men and women. No offense to either, but they play different games. There have been some unbelievable women players in Illinois, but they deserve their own list.
One thing that occurred to me if you do a top 100. As the rules change in the game, it accentuates different talents of players. For example, when I played, there was no three point line. There are some players I can think of, Brad Waller and Roger Powell, who would be starting at top 10 D1 school if they had a three point line in high school. They were dangerous inside of half court. The three point line was a structural change in the way the court was set up.
Sports like football change rules all the time. Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr played a different game than Tom Brady.
Sports like baseball change some rules but the game is basically unchanged since the 1920s. Sure, the mound was raised in 1970, but the length of the baseline is the same. It’s easier to compare baseball from generation to generation than any other sport. I think that Ted Williams would still be a great player today.
In golf, the equipment has changed so much it’s really hard to compare golfers from generations. I went to a luncheon with Mike Small, the head coach of the perpetually highly ranked Illinois golf program, and he said he wonders if today’s golfers will have long careers. They put a lot of stress on on their bodies with the way they swing. I can’t help but think that if young golfers today built yoga into their training routine, they’d last longer and have less injuries.
When I was getting my MBA at Chicago Booth, my stats professor Rob McCulloch told us one of his hobbies. He keeps the stats on every single hockey player in the history of the game. Then, he runs them to see who is furthest from the mean. Once he compiled and ran the stats on every single major sport (Basketball, Baseball, Football and Hockey). There is only one athlete in the history of those four sports that is three standard deviations from the mean.
Babe Ruth is close. Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan are within the bell curve.