Boys BB: State’s 30 Greatest Teams

One of the schools that has multiple teams in our look at the 30 greatest boys basketball teams in state history is McClymonds of Oakland. Photo: abc7news.com.


For the first time ever we present our writeups of the 30 greatest boys basketball teams in state history. This follows previous presentations for football, baseball and softball. The criteria for what we’re looking for is explained in this free, introductory post and we have an alphabetical list of all 30 teams that have been selected for inclusion. We will give you a spoiler that placed in the No. 1 position is an undefeated team from the school that also can say it was the starting point of the greatest player from a California high school. You’ll have to check the other two posts to see which one.

FOR A LOOK AT THE GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAMS IN STATE HISTORY,
CLICK HERE.
FOR A LOOK AT THE GREATEST BASEBALL TEAMS IN STATE HISTORY,
CLICK HERE.
FOR A LOOK AT THE GREATEST SOFTBALL TEAMS IN STATE HISTORY,
CLICK HERE.
COMING SOON: GREATEST GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAMS IN STATE HISTORY.

FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 1 TO NO. 15, CLICK HERE.
FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 16 TO NO. 30, CLICK HERE.

We hope you enjoy this free post on CalHiSports.com. All of the actual rankings and writeups for these teams plus the recent addition of all-time state records in boys basketball are for Gold Club members. You can now join for one-month rate of just $3.99 or $24.99 for one year. For subscription info, CLICK HERE.

Arguing about which teams deserve to be ranked higher and which teams have been missed is the point of completing such a task as ranking the 30 greatest high school boys basketball teams in California history. It’s expected and kind of fun.

Our two main content initiatives for the CalHiSports.com site during the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential shutdown of high school sports from last March until (we hope) January of 2021 have been to finish or update all-time greatest team rankings in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball. We’ve already updated those rankings for football, baseball and softball and will be getting girls hoops done in several weeks.

The other main initiative is adding and/or updating all state records we have in those same five sports. We still have some categories to add for football, but all of the offensive categories were updated through the last season and now appear on the site. We also have completed state record updates and have added numerous categories to the site in both boys and girls basketball. We should have baseball wrapped up within one week and then softball will be compiled and added to the site after that.

Ziaire Williams and teammates from Sierra Canyon 2020 didn’t get a chance to win state title, but may eventually join list of all-time great teams. Photo: sierracanyonathletics.com.


Before reading through all of the 30 teams that have been selected for this boys basketball feature, keep in mind that it is not a ranking of the 30 “best” teams in state history because obviously many teams from more than 30, 40 and 50 years ago wouldn’t be able to step on the same court with some of the super-fast, super-sized squads of modern times.

Greatness is about historical context, it’s about being that much better than one’s contemporary competition and it’s about being No. 1 in the state and No. 1 in the nation, which in most years in California was mythical and not determined on the court. It’s still mostly mythical nationally.

For these all-time state rankings, we also are not going to go against our own published state rankings for a given season. If a team was not No. 1 in the final Cal-Hi Sports rankings it wasn’t going to be ranked in this package in front of the team that was ranked higher for that season. Any exceptions to that rule are explained in the writeups.

Secondly, finishing No. 1 in a credible national ranking was used as a barometer to measure a team’s greatness. Our managing editor, Ronnie Flores, still compiles one of these rankings (BallisLife FAB 50). For many years, Ronnie and Cal-Hi Sports also consulted on national boys basketball rankings with such people as Doug Huff (ESPN) and the late Barry Sollenberger of the National Prep Poll, which began for the 1987-88 season and morphed into the FAB 50 in 1999-2000. Placings in other national rankings were considered as well.

Ronnie has been the primary boys basketball editor/analyst for Cal-Hi Sports for nearly 20 years. These rankings were compiled primarily by him and then were adjusted through meetings with yours truly, who has seen teams as far back as Elk Grove 1975 and Fremont of Oakland 1977. We also have talked about the topic many times over the years with many others from around the state.

Ronnie also will be working on the FAB 50 national preseason rankings over the next few weeks. He says California teams will be included and that the rankings will be released by November 1. He knows that the CIF season in the state won’t commence until March 12, but there are not enough states playing the spring schedule to warrant doing two separate national rankings. It will just be one very long season that will extend to the end of June.

Teams can move up or move down in these all-time rankings based on how graduates from those teams do in later years. That’s why a recent team like Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth 2019 can move up in future updates of these rankings. If players from that squad end up starring in the NBA within five years, for example, we would give that team a higher all-time ranking.

For these first 30 teams, we also paired some of them together in one writeup to account for back-to-back seasons. Examples include Crenshaw of Los Angeles for 1993 and 1994 plus Mater Dei of Santa Ana for 2013 and 2014. As the rankings continue to expand in future updates, some of those teams could be broken up separately. For the first edition, though, we strived to rank as many schools as possible.

Finally, of course, nothing we’ve ever done, including this project and the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac, would be possible without all the research that was done for so many years by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis (1936-2004).

Here is an alphabetical list of the 30 teams we’ve decided to include in this feature:

Artesia (Lakewood) 2007
Berkeley 1970
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 2015
Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 2017
Chino Hills 2016
Compton 1952
Compton 1968
Crenshaw (Los Angeles) 1972
Crenshaw (Los Angeles) 1985
Crenshaw (Los Angeles) 1994
Dominguez (Compton) 2000
Elk Grove 1975
Fremont (Oakland) 1977
Harvard-Westlake (N. Hollywood) 1997
Helix (La Mesa) 1970
Inglewood 1980
Jordan (Los Angeles) 1966
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 1976
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 1984
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 1985
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 1987
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 2014
McClymonds (Oakland) 1958
McClymonds (Oakland) 1960
McClymonds (Oakland) 2008
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 2019
St. Joseph (Alameda) 1993
Verbum Dei (Los Angeles) 1971
Verbum Dei (Los Angeles) 1975
Westchester (Los Angeles) 2002

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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8 Comments

  1. Jeff Davis
    Posted September 24, 2020 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I think Carson High’s 1982 state basketball championship team should be one of the 30 best teams in Cali history. This was El HUD’s (Eldridge Hudson) team.

    • Ronnie Flores
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:31 am | Permalink

      Although Carson won the first modern dat state tournament, Banning of Wilmington actually won league (the marine was tough back then with Gardena, too), so that puts them a notch down. Of course, El Hud decided he wanted to dominate in the playoffs.

      • Pierre Daniel
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

        Hello sports fans … The Demos from Jefferson High School between the years of 1952-1972 were some of the best teams in the nation. Please don’t forget all time greats like Billy McGill and coach Larry Hanson. Thank You ! Also don’t forget some of the all -time great players in the such as Anthony “Saint “ Bailey , Sam Robinson , Glen McDonald , Edgar Lacey , Billy McGill and a whole host of other Demo greats! Thank You and please respond !

  2. Wilbur Jordan
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Is their ever consideration given to small school teams when ranking great BB teams like 1956 Weed High School Team, 1959 Yreka High School, and 1957 Herlong High Team?

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      It’s sort of like apples and oranges. Can’t really put up those teams against the big boys, but they deserve credit for what they did against comparable schools. Nelson researched schools at all levels back into the 1940s and has teams of the year for each season. Yreka is listed for 1959-60 at 25-0. Don’t see the other two.

  3. Christopher Busch
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    2003 Oakland Tech would be 75% of these teams smh

    • Bill
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      As long as they didn’t have to play Westchester!

  4. Wilbur Jordan
    Posted September 27, 2020 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Mark I have the annual that Nelson put together . I know that in many cases information for small school is very hard to find. From what I know the 1956 Weed teams was 23-0> It was led by Aaron Thomas (NY giants FB) state layer of the year 6-4, 6-9 Center Jim Wilson, 6-6 Randsom Scott, Guards Joe Belcastro and Gene Hillard. Both in various baseball hall of fames) I saw Herlong play against a really good Weed team in 1957 21-1 in the finals of the Lassen tournament they were an all African-American team 5-6 to 6-8 players Herlong won in 3 overtimes. I did see the 1975 Elk Grove team with Cartwright and I think these team were every bit as good if not better. Just an opinion. The Yreka Team 1957 through 1960 were big and talented led by 6-6 Bill Wilson (UOP) and they were coached by Dick Edwards (University of California). It probably is like compariiong apples to oranges?

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