Who’s the greatest? King James or …

LE BRON JAMES? Greatest of all time? (Wikipedia photo).

After LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in a NBA first round playoff series Sunday, his performance was so overwhelming (33 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) that it raised the persistent question: is he the greatest pro basketball player of all time?

Allowing for the difficulty in comparing eras and evaluating an athlete whose career isn’t completed yet, the tantalizing point of discussion remains. So we decided to take a look at who the experts would tap as number one (and two and three). And after that, you have a chance to cast your own vote.

  • Bleacher Report: Michael Jordan, followed by Bill Russell and Magic Johnson
  • Fox Sports: Jordan, followed by LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • CBS Sports: Jordan, James and Wilt Chamberlain
  • ESPN: Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, James
  • Ranker (fan vote): Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson
  • SLAM magazine: Jordan, Chamberlain, Russell.

The consensus is clearly for Jordan, influenced no doubt by his fistful of NBA championship rings. But it’s also interesting to see how the big men featured in the top three are practically ancient history to today’s fans, and that centers no longer have the – pardon the pun – central place in the basketball world.

Why do we no longer have a giant among our hoops giants? Two reasons: the three-point shot and the legalization of the zone defense. The trey places are greater emphasis on outside shooting, thereby devaluing the importance of a shot-blocker and slam-dunker in the paint. The zone gives defensive help and makes rebounding a bit easier, again making the big man less crucial.

So the next question becomes, how would the giants of yesteryear like Russell, Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar fare in today’s brave new world? We’ll take that up in another column soon.

THREE OF THE four area high school baseball league are nearing the end of their seasons and the hottest race amongst them is in the Golden West League. Ocean View and Loara are tied for first with 7-2 records heading into the latter part of their schedules.

The Seahawks and Saxons won’t meet again in GWL play, but the schedule seems to favor the boys from Loara, since they have four games remaining against Westminster and Orange, which have a combined league record of 1-11.

The Empire League race is also tight, with Tustin and Pacifica tied at 3-1. The Tillers and Mariners will play a crucial game on Friday at the Mariner diamond.

In the other leagues, the races are pretty much decided. Garden Grove (8-1) will win the Garden Grove League title, with Santiago, La Quinta and Rancho Alamitos (all 5-4) and Los Amigos (4-5) battling for possible playoff position. Huntington Beach (8-1) looks to coast to the Sunset pennant, with Marina (5-3), Fountain Valley (5-4) and Los Alamitos (5-4) jostling for second and third.

Pete Zarustica writes the Monday Morning Coach column.

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