June 28, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Anthony Davis (Kentucky) waits for the 2012 NBA Draft to begin at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Who’s Your All-Time Favorite?

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?

Tags: Adolph Rupp Anthony Davis Jamal Mashburn John Wall Kenny Walker Kentucky Wildcats

  • Jaime McDaniel

    I loved Davis also but I think a player needs to be there longer than one or two years. So I have to go with Issel or Dampier. There could be many though.

    • Vinny Hardy

      You’ve got a point Jaime. Davis and Issel represent the best of both worlds (old and new) as far as UK greats go. I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

      • Jaime McDaniel

        You favorite pro was Dominique, (good choice) I have several, but 4 are right up there for me. ( I am old!) Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Dirk Nowitski. 2 Lakers and I don’t like the Lakers!! Ha Ha!

        • Vinny Hardy

          Yep, TBS played Hawks and Braves games every night in the 80′s when I was a kid. ‘Nique and Murph were my guys. I’m still bitter about the Hawks trading him for Danny Manning, dumbest move ever. I haven’t rooted for the Hawks since then. Olajuwon was my 2nd favorite NBA player, been a Rockets fan ever since. Still love Nique though.

          • Jaime McDaniel

            I was bitter when the Reds let Frank Robinson go to the Orioles so I became a Orioles fan in the American League.

          • Vinny Hardy

            Yep, you can definitely relate.

  • jc813

    Davis is the best to ever play for UK and he seems to stay very active in the BBN always a vocal supporter of the university. I think people forget how talented Cousins was too…I love that kid!

    • Vinny Hardy

      I really like A.D. too and Oscar Combs opinion carries a ton of weight. Issel and Mashburn are right up there with Davis as well in my opinion.

    • Jaime McDaniel

      Cousins has tremendous talent! Now if he could just straighten out his head to go with it no telling what he would become as a player!

      • Vinny Hardy


  • Jay Perry Phillips

    I am like James Young, my fav. will always be T. Prince

    • Vinny Hardy

      Prince brought it every night, you had to love the way he played. Thanks for reading Jay.

      • Jaime McDaniel

        Prince was great and a great and smart pro!

  • Jaime McDaniel

    This is a good discussion and there can be many players that we all loved I am also a big NBA fan and love to follow the UK players in the NBA. I really love to watch A.D. and as he matures he is going to be great! (Almost is now) Plus he is a good guy and really likable. Issel averaged right at 34 points a game his senior year and finished his NBA career 5th in all time scoring behind Jabbar, Moses Malone, Chamberlain and my other favorite, Julius Irving. He was one of the first big men to be able to shoot from the outside. I heard Jabbar in an interview when ask who the toughest person he ever played against and guard, without hesitation he said Dan Issel. If Dan had gone straight to the NBA instead the ABA and then gone somewhere besides Denver in the NBA he would be a lot better known. I knew Coach Rupp and talked to him a lot and I ask him one time who was his all time favorite player and he told me Julius Irving. He loved Dr. “J”.

    • Jaime McDaniel

      Also Issel today if you combine NBA and ABA points, he would still be 7th all time. He shot right at 51% for his career and around 80% at the line! He is a great guy and supporter of UK!