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What’s so special about Kentucky basketball?

Jack Givens, left, and James Lee with Matthew Bradford at the Ohio UK Convention are two UK fan favorites. (Larry Vaught Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

For anyone that has watched Kentucky basketball for any period of time — either as a true fan or as an outside observer — it is quickly evident that there is a special connection between the UK players and the fans.

It runs deeper than just a person buying a ticket or tuning in to watch a sporting event. Sure, there is the exciting competition, great energy from the players and coaches and unbelievable individual plays during the games but there is also the day to day living that occurs. It’s camping out for tickets on the days leading up to Big Blue Madness and meeting the players up close and personal.

It’s seeing them in public and taking a quick selfie because, for the players it’s an everyday occurrence, but for the fan it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

But it’s also living and dying with each shot they take. Holding your breath as you watch the ball go up in the air on a last second shot  in a crucial game in the NCAA Tournament or just hoping that a UK player can make a crucial steal or block in the last few seconds of the game to preserve the victory.

So many players have come through the doors of Memorial Coliseum and later Rupp Arena to play for the Blue and White. Some stayed and played for four or five seasons and others only one but they all became part of the family.

If you sit down and talk with a Kentucky basketball fan for any amount of time it doesn’t take long before they are telling you about this game or that play and of course who their favorite players were. And it doesn’t always have anything to do with how many points they scored or if their team won a national championship.

Sometimes it’s about the player they met at Fayette Mall who took the time to sign an autograph, have a conversation or take a picture together. Or maybe they saw your kids and played a little one on one for a minute or two because that’s the kind of guys that Kentucky players are.

No matter the reasons every true Kentucky fan can tell you about their favorite players they’ve watched wear the blue and white at UK. I’m sure that as you are reading this many players faces and names have come to mind from your favorite teams down through the years. Players that you’ve met. Ones that were special to you because of the way they played, how they approached the game or even for activities outside of sports like visiting your kid’s school or speaking at an event you attended.

Regardless of how fans choose their favorite players the fact is they do have favorites.

And just like every other fan I have favorite players also. Some may not be household names in the lore of Kentucky basketball but they all hold a special place in my memories of Kentucky Basketball and were there for me as a kid and now, even as an adult, they still hold a special place in my life as players that helped me to understand that any Wildcat game is something more  than just a sporting event.

Over the next few weeks I would like to share a list of five of my favorite players that played at UK. They aren’t special necessarily because they scored the most points or had the most spectacular dunks or even because they won multiple titles while at UK.

They are special to me because of the personal connection they had – even if it only came through watching them from a distance – as they competed week in and week out for the entire time they played for UK.

Maybe as you read the articles it will bring back memories of players that had a special impact in your life as a UK fan. And if not, then thanks for humoring me as I take a little walk down memory lane and re-live some of  the memories I have of special players that represented the University of Kentucky and Big Blue Fans everywhere.


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  1. Enjoyed the post and look forward to your fav five.

  2. Couldn’t resist jumping the gun with my all time favorites:
    Ralph Beard, Hagan/Ramsey, Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson and the
    Big Kat- blessed to have seen them all play the game.

  3. Thanks for reading the article & the site. Your Fav 5 are a little different from what mine will be I do really like the 5 you picked. Some of the all time best to ever play for UK.

  4. Going back a way, my picks are Cotton Nash, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, Kenny Walker, and the greatest in my view with only one year at Kentucky, Anthony Davis. There are so many more players we all could name.

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