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UK Basketball: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone

Frank Ramsey with Cliff Hagan in 1954. (UK Athletics Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

In 1970 Canadian born singer Joni Mitchell wrote and recorded a song titled “Big Yellow Taxi” It became a hit song for her reaching No. 24 on the Billboard Charts in 1974. In that song one of the lines in the chorus says,”You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. That seems to be so true in almost any endeavor.

Take these great artists for example. Jan Vermeer, great Dutch painter, is remembered as one of the Dutch Masters and yet he died penniless leaving a wife and eleven children in financial ruin. Creditor’s took all his paintings. Four of those paintings now hang in the New York Museum of Metropolitan Art.

Another Dutch Master, Vincent van Gogh, was also unappreciated as an artist during his lifetime. He died in poor health and abject poverty from a self-inflicted gun shot wound at age 37. Only one of van Gogh’s paintings sold during his lifetime. His paintings now hang in museums around the world.

Emily Dickinson, great English poet and writer only had seven works published during her lifetime and they were altered by the publisher to fit the literary style of the time. Each of these artists – through their hard work and dedication to their artistic endeavors – help lay the groundwork of greatness for the generations of artists that followed.

The death of UK basketball great Frank Ramsey recently made me think about how under-appreciated great historical players from the University of Kentucky have become. Ramsey was a consensus All-American in college winning the National Championship in 1951.

He went on to help create an NBA dynasty as a player with the Boston Celtics. He was instrumental in helping the Celtics win seven championships over an eight year period. That statistic is still mind-boggling even today.

Ramsey is just one of many great University of Kentucky basketball players whose previous accomplishments have been forgotten over time. Unlike the great Dutch Masters whose recognition seems to grow as the years pass by, great achievements by talented individuals like Ramsey seem to be stored in the dustbin of history and only brought out after the player has passed away.

So August when you watch several University of Kentucky players suit up for the first time in the Bahamas, think about players like Frank Ramsey. Guys who went before, created a legacy and to this day are the building blocks of the University of Kentucky’s winning tradition in basketball.

They are the reason this year’s team will be reaching for championship No. 9.

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