Best Hoops Class Ever?

With a record eight high school basketball players selected in the first round of this summer's NBA Draft, there's been a lot of debate about whether the Class of 2004 is one of the best graduating classes of prep ballers ever. So we decided to settle the argument by digging back in basketball history and ranking the top five high school hoop classes of the past 25 years.

1. Class of 1981
We'll start with one name: Michael Jordan. Having the best player in basketball history gives the Class of 1981 immediate consideration for the top spot. And once you add in future Hall of Famers like Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing — three more of the greatest players in NBA history — this becomes a pretty easy choice, even if Malone and Barkley weren't as hyped coming out of high school. This class might not be as deep as others, but its star power makes it No. 1.

2. Class of 1979
A lot of people believe this class is the best ever — at least in the modern era — and it's hard to argue with the names: Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Ralph Sampson and Byron Scott. That's a lot of NBA titles and All-Star appearances right there. And as an added bonus, 1979 also produced March Madness favorite Clark Kellogg and the infamous Sam Bowie, the man who was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984.

3. Class of 1995
Most of the top players from 1995 are still in the NBA, so the final chapter hasn't been written on this class yet. But by the time it's all said and done, the Class of 1995 could challenge for No. 1. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Stephon Marbury and Vince Carter are all perennial All-Stars, and that doesn't even count guys like Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Chauncey Billups and Sixth Man of the Year Antawn Jamison.

4. Class of 2004
It's really tough to put a class that just graduated into historical perspective because we have no idea how many of these guys will turn out to be stars. But based on the strength and depth of a class that produced eight first-round picks in this summer's NBA Draft — as well as college-bound superstars like Marvin Williams, Randolph Morris and Rudy Gay — No. 4 seems like a fitting spot.

5. Class of 1996
Two of this season's top NBA MVP candidates — Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O'Neal — graduated from high school in 1996, not to mention playoff veterans Mike Bibby, Kenyon Martin and Richard Hamilton and former lottery pick Tim Thomas. That gives 1996 a slight advantage over 1991, which produced Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Glenn Robinson and Donyell Marshall. It's close, but Kobe gives 1996 the edge.

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