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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: What Makes a UK Legend?

You know, a common topic of conversation amongst UK fans, especially in the summer months, is about who might be next to go up into the rafters at Rupp Arena.  I feel like there is a general consensus that will likely be Tony Delk.  But whoever it is, they will become the 37th player to earn that honor.  But, what has generally made a UK legend?  Below, I have split the 36 retirees into different categories to see if there has been any common feature amongst the players.  You’ll find some interesting trends I think:

Kentucky (20): Hayden, Spicer, Sale, DeMoisey, Rouse, Rollins, Beard, Jones, Hagan, Ramsey, Evans, Rose, Bird, Grawemeyer, Hatton, Cox, Givens, Feldhaus, Pelphrey, Farmer
Indiana (4): Barker, Dampier, Macy, Woods
Ohio (2): Groza, Grevey
Georgia (2): Spivey, Walker
Louisiana (2): Nash, Robey
New York (2): Riley, Mashburn
Massachusetts (1): Tsioropoulos
Texas (1): Burrow
Illinois (1): Issel
Pennsylvania (1): Bowie

What’s interesting to me is that 16 of the first 21 UK players to have their jersey retired were from the state of Kentucky.  Since that time though, only 4 of 15 players who have seen their jersey into the rafters are from the state, and 3 of those were from The Unforgettables.  Tayshaun Prince and Tony Delk are probably the next 2 to go up there, which will take care of California and Tennessee.  Keith Bogans is from Virginia.  But what’s clear is that the quality of high school basketball in Kentucky has dipped to such a level over the last 25-30 years that UK just can’t rely on recruiting the state heavy.

Guard (10): Rouse, Rollins, Beard, Ramsey, Rose, Hatton, Dampier, Macy, Farmer, Woods
Guard/Forward (4): Hayden, Evans, Barker, Pelphrey
Forward (11): Spicer, Tsioropoulos, Bird, Grawemeyer, Cox, Riley, Grevey, Givens, Walker, Feldhaus, Mashburn
Forward/Center (6): Sale, Demoisey, Jones, Nash, Robey, Bowie
Center (5): Groza, Spivey, Hagan, Burrow, Issel

(Positions determined by Jon Scott’s website)

1920’s: Hayden, Spicer
1930’s: Sale, Demoisey, Rouse
1940’s: Rollins, Groza, Beard, Jones, Barker
1950’s: Spivey, Hagan, Ramsey, Tsioropoulos, Evans, Rose, Bird, Grawemeyer, Burrow, Hatton, Cox
1960’s: Nash, Dampier, Riley, Issel
1970’s: Grevey, Givens, Robey, Macy
1980’s: Bowie, Walker
1990’s: Farmer, Feldhaus, Pelphrey, Woods, Mashburn

Those 1950’s were sure filled with a lot of UK legends.  Same amount of titles as the 1940’s and 1990’s, but many more legends.  Ok.

2 Titles: Groza, Beard, Jones, Barker
1 Title: Rollins, Spivey, Hagan, Ramsey, Tsioropoulos, Hatton, Cox, Givens, Robey, Macy
No Titles: Hayden, Spicer, Sale, Demoisey, Rouse, Evans, Rose, Bird, Grawemeyer, Burrow, Nash, Dampier, Riley, Issel, Grevey, Bowie, Walker, Feldhaus, Farmer, Pelphrey, Woods, Mashburn

Interesting that 22 of 36 retirees did not win titles at UK.  I don’t know why, but I thought that the majority of them would have.  But UK went from 1959 to 1995 winning only 1 title, so when put in that context, it’s understandable.

Follow me on twitter at @BryantheIntern or @mysports790.  And if you would like a non-UK sports blog to mess around with each day, I would highly recommend The Sports Pit.   

Article written by Bryan the Intern

47 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: What Makes a UK Legend?

  1. UKFan4Life
    9:15 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Need to be Retired:
    1. Rex Chapman

    1. Tony Delk
    2. Antoine Walker
    3. Derek Anderson
    4. Ron Mercer?
    5. Walter McCarty?
    6. Cameron Mills
    7. Scott Padgett

    1. Tayshaun Prince
    2. Keith Bogans
    3. Chuck Hayes
    4. Patrick Sparks
    5. Patrick Patterson
    6. Darius Miller
    7. John Wall
    – 1 pick
    8. Anthony Davis
    – 1 Pick

  2. Jeff
    9:16 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Given the chance in the future only Kentucky kids will be in the rafters because out of state kids go pro after 6 months in Lexington. Give me a John Pelphrey any day of the week and I will be totally happy. He will stay 4 years living a dream and playing his guts out. Thats a Kentucky kids dream.

  3. catfandan
    9:17 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    My head hurts.

  4. tom
    9:19 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    3. agree

  5. Jeff
    9:19 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Its a damn shame that Tubby Smith is not in the rafters as well. It has been 15 years since he guided the Cats to a National Championship. Rupp, Hall and Pitino were all in the rafters MUCH quicker than that. Hell Pitino was in the rafters within 5 years of doing it as was Coach Hall.
    Tubby Smith represented UK with dignity and class and I am irritated as a fan that he is not in the rafters like the other coaches who won NC at UK.
    Does anyone REALLY believe that Cal will not be in the rafters at RUPP in 2027?

  6. Tubby who
    9:25 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    5) Smith probably wouuld be in rafters if he didn’t have half of the ten loss seasons in school history. The man of so called class never even told the school or the players of his departure before hand. Looks lke you have forgot the mess he left for BCG.
    BCG might have screwed up but he inherited a no win situation.

  7. tim
    9:25 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    5. Jeff, concur 100%. It is a shame about Tubby. This university needs to wake up and do what is right.

    Question…was Pitino put up with the Unforgettables or was the raising of his banner seperate?

  8. Tubby who
    9:27 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    So by your logic we shouldn’t have recruited the twins because we already had Polson. $$tch please!

  9. Tubby who
    9:30 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    #7 He was probably put up because he brought the program back from the ashes and into a champion in less the 7 years! Pitino and Tubby are not even compairable. Tubby inherited Camelot and left a slum. Pitino inherited a slum and left Camalot!

  10. BBN
    9:35 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Could we compete in the NBA with a UK only team. Rondo prince wall cousins Bledsoe Davis MKG Jones. I would take that team.

  11. Put up PPat
    9:36 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    The next two after Delk should be Prince and Patterson! Those 2 embodied everything one could want in a wildcat on and off the court!

  12. BBN
    9:37 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Forgot about Meeks gotta have that shooting guard.

  13. D
    9:37 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I wouldnt say quality of KY high school ball has dipped. Its just a matter of national demographics.

  14. BPM
    9:38 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    #1: Why would UK retire Cameron Mills and/or Patrick Sparks’ jerseys?

  15. Han
    9:43 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    14) Because a lot of fans mistake popular for a couple years for being legendary. Also, they’re both Kentucky boys, which makes them extra special to some people.

  16. BBN
    9:43 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    The tubby argument is a joke. He took a top notch program and turned it into a dumpster fire and pawned it of on BCG. I know too many high level former players and boosters that would be FURIOUS if they rewarded what Tubby did to this school.

  17. BBN
    9:48 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t care what anybody says TUBBY DID NOT WIN A TITLE.The dumbest person on this blog could have coached PITINOS team to a championship. Hate pitino now but he deserves that more than Tubby. That team did nothing but go downhill fast after Tubby took the lead. We are so lucky that Cal came around and took this program back it’s rightful place. If it were anybody besides Cal I would hate to see where we would be right now. GO BIG BLUE

  18. bung
    9:48 am June 5, 2013 Permalink


  19. King cal
    9:51 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    What determines who get hung up. Their play or overall meaning to the program. If its strictly play you could put all of Cals teams in 5 years after they leave. As great as UK’s history is we have never had the amount of talent we have right now and that’s saying something!

  20. BIG BLUE
    9:53 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    It has always bother me that Reggie Hanson has never received any credit for staying when he could have left and played the next season somewhere else. If the unforgettables are up there then he should be also. He did just as much or more than they did. He was a better player than of the four.

  21. King cal
    9:55 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    #17 BS there is no bigger Tubby Basher then me, but he won the title in 1998. He clearly out coached coach K down the stretch. Tubby latter admitted he coached his teams different after that year. I still don’t think he earned the right to have his jersey hung up.

  22. BIG BLUE
    9:55 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    any of the four.

  23. Al/in/Indy
    10:03 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I always thought Tubby was class throughout his time at UK, BUT….the two heartburns I have with him was (1)…He put sonny boy on a scholly while a kid named Jason Gardner from Indy was biting at the bit to come to UK, because his whole family were Cat fans. He wasn’t going to sit the bench while the coach’s son played. (wound up at Zona) (2)…He was negotiating his contract with the Gophers while we were playing in the SEC tournament.

  24. Ridge Runner
    10:09 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I always am a bit confused on the reasoning we put certain players jerseys as retired. #19, I hear ya. If I knew why and what the standards were (so to speak) I could offer more of an opinion. But it seems to be all over the place on who goes up in the rafters.

  25. Rockfield, KY
    10:10 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    13. Bingo. Once we started recruiting black players, we had to recruit more inner cities, which means leaving the state to sign players.

  26. Rockfield, KY
    10:12 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I would hope that Patterson gets in the rafters eventually. He was the bridge to keeping our program afloat during the Tubby to BCG to Cal transition and he was the consummate student athlete.

  27. Mark
    10:15 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    24- ridge, exactly!

  28. Mark
    10:16 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    not to mention, we will hang player x jersey and not player y when both or more are just as deserving. weird.

  29. Joe
    10:17 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Some of the ’50s guys are just plain bad picks. Phil Grawemeyer scored 626 points in three years. He was never even All-SEC, much less All-American. He didn’t win any championships. Billy Evans scored 716 points in three years. He was third-team All-SEC in his senior year. No titles either. Gayle Rose had 443 points in three years, and no titles. Jerry Bird had 713 points in three years, and was second team All-SEC as a senior. Again, no titles.

    Those four guys plain and simple were bad choices. I’m not picking on them. I’m sure they were good guys, and I’m proud of their time as Wildcats. But here are a few players who scored more points than any of the four– you tell me if they’ll have jerseys retired– Gimel Martinez, Saul Smith, Jeff Brassow, and Jules Camara.

  30. tyson
    10:21 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Patterson definitely deserves to be up there. GREAT on and off the court. It will be very tough going forward to decide since most kids will only be here one or two years. Since Cal has been here, I would say Anthony Davis has the best case since he won an NC, Olympic gold medal, and was #1 draft pick.

  31. Ridge Runner
    10:22 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Why not these? –other than time for Miller & our only number 1 NBA picks (Wall & AD)? Why not these when you look at the ones that are retired? That is why I am confused.

    1. Rex Chapman
    2. Tony Delk
    3. Antoine Walker
    4. Tayshaun Prince
    5. Patrick Patterson
    6. Darius Miller
    7. John Wall
    8. Anthony Davis
    9. Tubby Smith (like it or not he won a banner)

  32. Ridge Runner
    10:26 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    My 31 comment is not in any order -cuz hell… I don’t know what order is used or what criteria is used. It’s just a list of “why nots”.

  33. cats fan
    11:11 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    how about the guys STAY FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR

  34. GetFarmerOutOfRupp
    11:12 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    If player accomplishments can earn them the honor of having their jerseys hanging from the rafters at Rupp, then disgracing the state should allow us to remove them. Get Farmer’s jersey out of Rupp.

  35. FrankfortCats
    11:49 am June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with most of #31. The time factor could come into play, but players that need to have their jerseys retired at some point should DEFINITELY include the following:

    1. Tony Delk – National Champion, Final Four MOP, All-American, 3-time All-SEC
    2. Rex Chapman – Kentucky-born, 2-time All-SEC
    3. Darius Miller – Kentucky-born, KY Mr. Basketball, National Champion, SEC 6th MotY
    4. Anthony Davis – National Champion, NPotY, #1 NBA draft pick, All-American, etc. (too many awards to list!)
    5. John Wall – NBA #1 draft pick, All-American, All-SEC

    Most of these are because of their accolades and their national recognition as among the top 5 in college basketball their respective years. Darius Miller, I think should be retired for obvious reasons, given his track record in Kentucky basketball history. It is debatable about the two #1 picks since they were only here for 1 year, especially J. Wall, who wasnt a National Champion, but I think because of his role as the centerpiece to the re-emergence of UK basketball, it deserves argument, at the very least.

    I’d also like to see Prince and Patterson for their roles as both great players and good representatives of the University, both on and off the court.

    Guys like Walker, Mercer, Padgett, Sheppard could have cases made for them as well, but I think the 5 I mentioned, would be most likely.

  36. valuemartchris
    12:20 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Has everyone forgotten how hyped up we were when King Rex ruled here! And he lived up to the hype! After Tony Delk, who stayed all four years, you’ve gotta hang one up for Chapman who sadly we only had for two.

  37. Dummy
    12:20 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    What about Chris Harrison?

  38. ScottyT
    12:23 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    BTI, I hope your KSR salary is a reflection of your writing!

  39. Scout51
    1:04 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Because no one seems clear on the criteria, we have those 50’s players previously mentioned who didn’t seem to accomplish much, but we also have the Unforgettables, who went up way too soon. Pitino pushed that through on a wave of emotion, with no perspective on time. Given how Pitino treated the UK players who played before his arrival (shunned, was rude to, dismissive), he used the Unforgettables to forge HIS version of UK basketball: Nothing really significant happened until he arrived. Why the hell else would he even THINK about taking the Louisville job??????

  40. jymbo
    1:35 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    Take Farmer down, he’s a digrace to UK and the State.

  41. Not Joey votto
    1:51 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I agree, Farmer needs to go. Was a decent player at UK, but doesn’t deserve this honor. He could have written his own ticket in this state but is such a lowlife that is all gone.

  42. Garmaster
    2:38 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    I thought I read or heard somewhere you had to be a graduate of UK to get your jersey hung in the rafters. I believe those guys from the 50s that a previous poster questioned were members of an undefeated national championship team. The UKAA website just says they are “honored for contributions to the University of Kentucky”. Since KSR has more access than the average joe, maybe they could find out the criteria.

  43. Garmaster
    2:40 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    That should say ” honored for outstanding contributions to the University of Kentucky basketball program”

  44. Aaron
    2:45 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    43, Monster Mash didn’t graduate before his was hung.

  45. Joe
    3:05 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    42. They were members of the undefeated 1953-54 team. It didn’t win a national title, because they turned down an NCAA bid, after the NCAA was going to keep their three best players from playing in the Tournament. Those guys were the #4, 5, and 6 scorers on the team– and Bird only played in four games that year, so I don’t even have that excuse for him.

    I mean, that’s awesome, but Oliver Simmons was on the 1996 team and his jersey didn’t get retired. Or, to put it another way, the #4, 5, and 6 scorers on the 1998 title team were Wayne Turner, Allen Edwards, and Heshimu Evans. Good dudes, but Turner is the only one who is even in the conversation for getting his jersey retired.

  46. kycager
    11:11 pm June 5, 2013 Permalink

    where is Burgess Carey the 2nd UK all american…., and member of the lexington H.S. national championship team.

  47. Urban Porter
    1:06 am June 6, 2013 Permalink

    Those of you who are so hung up about “points scored” as the only criterion for getting raftered need to realize that it is only a part of the game of team basketball, and that if being outside the top three shooters in volume kept one out of the rafters, neither MKG nor Anthony Davis would be eligible. If you learned nothing else watching Nerlens and Anthony, it should have been that scoring is not the only important contribution a player can make. That 53 team was phenomenal, as well as being that UNDEFEATED team Cal keeps talking about, and ALL of them deserve the rafters.