Other voices In 1985, when Jordan was at Milford Mill, I didn't even rate him the best high school athlete on Liberty Road.
At the time, I was the prep editor charged with selecting the High School Athletes of the Year for the Baltimore metropolitan area. I deliberated long and hard, gulped, and chose Randallstown's Antoine Harris over Jordan.
Harris was a fine football player, the star on the first Baltimore County team to win a state title. He was the shooting guard on a basketball team that reached the state 4A semifinals at Cole Field House, and a champion sprinter, seriously fast up to 400 meters.
In reviewing Harris and four decades of grand prize winners as The Sun holds its 40th annual High School Athlete of the Year awards luncheon today, you reach two conclusions:
First, photos from the mid-'70s, when the guys sported shoulder-length hair, make great blackmail material. Second, the 74 weekly winners who will be also-rans today are in good company. The years before and after Jordan are filled with other worthy candidates who came up short.
Start with 1970, and Dulaney runner Bob Wheeler, considered at the time the third-best male in Baltimore County alone. It took 32 years for a local boy to run a mile faster than Wheeler, who still holds the area record for the 800.
Aberdeen High has had some gripes with the process.
Cal Ripken, the last Athlete of the Week selected in the 1977-78 school year, was also a dominant soccer player, dangerous in the air, but he wasn't even Aberdeen's top athlete of that era. Irv Pankey, Class of 1976, was a two-time state wrestling champ who put the shot nearly 60 feet and was good enough in football to spend more than a decade on the Los Angeles Rams' offensive line.
Consider the single-sport standouts who were passed over at the 1997 luncheon.
Archbishop Curley's Giuliano Celenza was an elite soccer player, Carver's Bernard Williams displayed the speed that made him Baltimore's only Olympic track gold medallist since 1896, and Mark Karcher of St. Frances had a basketball season for the ages.
Here are some other hoops specialists, in chronological order, who weren't versatile enough to be named Athlete of the Year: Skip Wise, Tony Guy, Quintin Dailey, Tori Harrison, Gert Scott, Reggie Williams, Sam Cassell, Keith Booth and Carmelo Anthony.
How hard is it to be named Athlete of the Year? Compare some Gilman School boys who lost out to classmates.
In 2000, we could have selected Ryan Boyle, the All-Metro quarterback who also guided the Greyhounds' lacrosse team. Arundel's Lou Carter (1971) was the best football-basketball-track man I had seen in the area until 2003, when Victor Abiamiri looked like the second coming of Julius Peppers. Abiamiri, a defensive lineman for Notre Dame, made like a decathlete at Gilman and won titles in the shot put, discus and triple jump.
Abiamiri figured in a football recruiting mess that steered him away from Maryland, perhaps one reason why he wasn't even an Athlete of the Week in 2002-03.
Who else wasn't named Athlete of the Week as a senior?
Edmondson's Marvin Webster (1971), the best basketball big man ever out of Baltimore.
Loch Raven's Sean Landeta (1979), who was still punting for the Philadelphia Eagles last fall.
The late Reggie Lewis (Dunbar, 1983), who played in an NBA All-Star Game.
St. Mary's Randall Goldsborough (1992), a first-team All-Metro in soccer, basketball and lacrosse, where she's still a world-class player.
Michael Phelps was named Athlete of the Week in September 2000 for reaching an Olympic final as a Towson High sophomore. Before the school year was out, the swimmer set a world record and was named Male Athlete of the Year.
Now, boys and girls must represent a high school team to be named Athlete of the Week, the reason world figure skating champion Kimmie Meissner and swimmer Katie Hoff, the USOC Sportswoman of the Year, aren't in this year's running.
If Hoff and Meissner were eligible, that would open a whole new argument.