This article appears in the December 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com. **use this link https://www.loumag.com/subscribe.aspx
11 > 2,000
Quick quiz: Would you rather have Kentucky’s 2,000-plus victories or UCLA’s 11 NCAA championships? If you picked the first option, you’re a lying UK fan. Look, if titles didn’t matter, you wouldn’t have run Tubby Smith (263-83 overall at UK) out of Lexington. Fact: College basketball’s winningest program is in California.
Kentucky hasn't annexed Indiana
The state with the high school hoops tradition immortalized in ESPN’s top-ranked sports movie of all time (Hoosiers), the university that’s made back-to-back Cinderella Final Four appearances (Butler), and the pro basketball team that plays in a retro stadium regularly ranked as one of sports’ finest (the Indiana Pacers’ Conseco Fieldhouse) is as close to the commonwealth as the Wildcats were to winning the 1992 East Regional Final. Also, Indiana’s best homegrown mustachioed player (Larry Bird) went on to become an NBA legend, while Kentucky’s best player with a ’stache (“Reechie” Farmer) was recently on the bottom half of one of our state’s worst-performing gubernatorial tickets. Northeastern elitism is justified With 17 NBA championships, the Boston Celtics are one of the world’s premier pro sports franchises, as opposed to Kentucky’s NBA team . . . which is nonexistent. Basketball was invented in Massachusetts, now home to the sport’s Hall of Fame. When Rick Pitino, a man for whom Success Is a Choice, was unable to succeed with the Celtics, he came whimpering back to Kentucky, where success must be easier to achieve (or expectations are lower). And unlike Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats, the Celtics were at the forefront of the sport’s integration, having drafted the first black player in the NBA (Chuck Cooper in 1950).
Toronto has the Raptors, Louisville has J. Bruce Miller
Speaking of the pro ranks, non-hoops hotbeds like Oklahoma, Louisiana and Ontario (hint: it’s a Canadian province) have NBA teams. The closest thing Kentucky has is that attorney whose suitcase the Louisville Metro Council keeps stuffing with taxpayer funds — $89,000 as of last December — in an attempt to lure a team here. Can a state be considered the best in a sport if it only suits up amateurs?
Michael Jordan was a fine draft pick
A state’s best-known draft pick should be famous for his prowess on the court — not for being the guy Portland selected instead of choosing Michael Jordan with the second pick in the 1984 NBA draft. But congrats to UK’s Sam Bowie, about whom both Sports Illustrated and ESPN agree: When it comes to draft busts, you’re number one.
U.S. News ranks universities too
North Carolina’s Big Four — Duke, North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest — have 11 NCAA championships among them. (Confession: I went to Wake, which I’m including even though it has never won one.) That’s more than the nine won by Kentucky’s hoops powerhouses. And while we’re doing advanced mathematics, four marquee programs is greater than two. The N.C. schools also trump the Kentucky ones in another ranking: three of them regularly appear in the top 30 of U.S. News & World Report’s list of best colleges. For 2012, UK ranks 124, U of L 164. Yes, it is possible to combine academic and athletic success, at least in North Carolina.
For allowing a new stadium to be built with taxpayer funds that’s lacking in the character its home city exudes. For the look of disbelief when someone answers “neither” when asked, “Who do you root for, UK or U of L?” For still thinking basketball is just better in Kentucky after reading this article.