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Feb 23, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; A row of banners hang in Rupp Arena before the game against the Kentucky Wildcats and the Missouri Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Basketball: The Numbers Game

If the University of Kentucky retired jersey numbers (and not just retired the jerseys of former players), there wouldn’t be enough jersey numbers left to field a team. Which is the problem you run into with all of the great players that have played for the Wildcats over the years. But, should some of the numbers be retired? Are there some jersey in numbers that stand out more than others? I think there are and with the help of bigbluehistory.net let’s take a closer look at Kentucky Basketball’s jersey numbers.

#1 – The strangest thing to me is that no one was #1 until Cliff Hawkins in 2000. Whether by choice or some unwritten rule, not one Kentucky player could actually say, “I’m number 1.” Since Hawkins debuted the number, Maysville, KY native Darius Miller made the number is own in helping the Cats win championship number 9 in 2012. James Young, those are some big shoes to fill, but you’re off to a pretty amazing start (just search the internet for his amazing shot from the Montevallo game).

Mar 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Darius Miller (1) shoots against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half in the semifinals of the 2012 NCAA men

#3 – For most of the Big Blue Faithful, this number belongs to “King” Rex Chapman. And it’s hard to argue otherwise. What John Wall was to the 2010s, Chapman was in the 1980s.  From his high-flying dunks to his off the court demeanor, Rex made the Wildcats cool.  With Terrence Jones and Nerlens Noel most recently wearing #3, it won’t soon fade from memory, especially with the Real T. Jones  “Teachin’ Em About Kentucky.”

Sep 30, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Tayshaun Prince poses for a portrait during media day at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

#21 – Goose. Tayshaun. The Shot Heard Around the Bluegrass.  The number 21 had provided Wildcat fans with some of the more memorable shots in Kentucky history. From Jack Givens lighting up the Blue Devils in 1978 to Tayshaun’s five three-pointers against UNC and with Cameron Mills shot to finally put those Christian Laettner demons to rest, any UK highlight real is going to show #21 making big time, iconic shots.

#23 – If you’re starting a team from scratch, the #23 is a good place to start. Big Man? All Everything Anthony Davis. Athletic wing that can score and play shutdown defense, Derek Anderson. Outside scorer? I think our good friends in Knoxville know first hand how deadly Jodie Meeks can be. Despite 23 belonging to the great Michael Jordan, surprisingly, not a lot of Cats pick that number.

Oct 15, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe against the Los Angeles Clippers at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

#24 – On pure athletic ability, no number is going to have better all around athletes than the number 24. Obviously, most folks equate 24 with Jamal Mashburn. And why wouldn’t you? He’s perhaps the greatest player in UK history, with career numbers to back that up. But when you throw it Antoine Walker, Kelenna Azubuike and Eric Bledsoe, the number 24 has dunks on top of dunks with a little shimmy thrown in.

#34 – Kenny “Sky” Walker or John Pelphrey? The number 34 is the only number where the two players that wore it back to back both have their names hanging up in the rafters, for very different reasons.  With Walker being one of the all time great players (Still top 10? I think so) and Pelphrey’s lasting legacy as one of the Unforgettables, it’s hard to argue with either player being honored at Rupp. And Scott Padgett did help lead the Cats to the 1998 title with a clutch performance, or five, during the title run.

#44 – The number belongs to three individuals that have their jerseys retired by Kentucky: Phil Grawemeyer. Cotton Nash. Dan Issel. Everyone knows that if it’s not Mashburn, the greatest player in UK history has to be all time leading scorer and rebounder, Dan Issel. And when you add in fan favorite, Chuck Hayes, the number 44 takes on an almost reverential quality. (*Honorable Mention: Gimel Martinez for his mustache and the way he always seemed to start every game with two fouls)

With all the numbers that players have worn over the years, it’s easy to see that some numbers stick out more than others. And some players seem to have their numbers all to themselves, like Mark Pope, the only person to ever put on #41. So, who’s your favorite player/number combo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know: @tbrown_80

Tags: Kentucky Wildcats

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