When you think of the broad scope of Kentucky Wildcats Basketball history you have to go back to the beginning. That will automatically take you to the Adolph Rupp era.
Kentucky basketball had it’s true beginning well before Rupp arrived in Lexington in 1931. The program had already been up and running for nearly 30 years. George Buchheit had gone 44-27 from 1920-24. John Mauer, who preceded Rupp went 40-14 from 1928-30.
With all due respect to those gentlemen, UK doesn’t play in Buchheit or Mauer Arena, Kentucky basketball as we know it began with Coach Rupp.
With that said, I had been kicking the all-time favorite UK player question around in my mind for quite a while. It is a lot tougher to come up with an answer than one may think. With my other favorite teams it’s easy. My initial NBA team was the Atlanta Hawks, Dominique Wilkins was and still is my all-time favorite NBA player. As far as MLB goes, I kept that in Atlanta too. Dale Murphy was and will always be my favorite baseball player of all time. Same goes for my Dallas Cowboys, Emmitt Smith resides at the top of the list (as a small kid he was preceded by Ed “Too Tall” Jones).
You get the picture. However, when it comes to picking an all-time favorite UK player I struggle. I know the answer to this question is generational. Folks in different age brackets will lean toward players from corresponding eras.
Jamal Mashburn will get some votes, as will John Wall, Sam Bowie, Jodie Meeks or Patrick Patterson. I wrote a tribute article about Kenny Walker and some fans commented that he was their favorite Cat of all. Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, Mike Pratt, Rick Robey, Cliff Hagan or Dan Issel may be on various people’s list. Older fans may go with Louie Dampier, Bill Spivey or Ralph Beard. The possibilities and preferences are endless and there are no wrong answers.
You can go with your all-time best player or your all-time favorite player. They could be the same player that fits both descriptions for some. Debate it and think on it any way you’d like.
None other than Oscar Combs himself, a man who has forgotten more UK hoops than I will ever know, prefers to go with the very recent past as opposed to the historic past. He has “The Brow”, Anthony Davis at the top of his list.
Mike Strange, long time writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel prefers a more historic approach. Although he’s covered the Tennessee Vols for years, he’s a Kentucky native (Frankfort) and told me via Twitter that Cotton Nash has always been his guy. The 44 on his jersey in his playing days and in his Twitter handle (@strangemike44) today were and are for Cotton Nash.
Fellow Wildcat Blue Nation writer Terry Brown and I delved into this topic just a tad on our radio show Wildcat Wednesday. We received a lot of different responses in just a short amount of time. Andre Riddick even received a vote!
I know for a fact that Jamal Mashburn, Tony Delk, Derek Anderson and Rex Chapman (say what you will) are my top four. Had I been three or four years older when Rex was at UK I think he would be my guy.
However, the fact that D.A. was there when I was a little older and did this to Nate Johnson on top of it put him at the top of my list. Add in the fact that many believe Kentucky would have won the title again in 1997 if he had played against Arizona (it was all AU could do to beat UK without him) and that just seals the deal for me.
How about you? We didn’t mention everyone, but who’s your favorite Kentucky basketball player of all-time?