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If the Ball is Round and Orange, Kentucky Will Support it


There’s so much to dissect from hoops this past weekend in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but perhaps just as impressive as Willie Cauley-Stein playing 11 minutes with four fouls or Dominique Hawkins’ 107 points in four games en route to a State Championship, was the passion for this sport at all levels showed by nearly 70,000 fans on one Saturday. When you combine the attendances at Louisville’s win over Notre Dame (22,815), Kentucky’s win over Florida (24,294), plus the crowd at the KHSAA Sweet 16 later that night at Rupp Arena (20,152), it comes out to a total of 67,261. This number isn’t even accounting for the number of Murray State fans who attended the Racers’ OVC Championship game that night as well against Belmont, which I’m pretty sure would bring the total to over 70,000.

As much as this state loves their Wildcats, I think it’s pretty clear that we are all crazy about hoops in general. There’s enough fans in this relatively small state to pack Rupp Arena twice for three different games in one day (and another 17,315 at the final on Sunday), all while the Yum Center is packed for a Louisville game and thousands of fans are supporting Murray State at the same time in Nashville. It doesn’t matter the level. Whether it’s UK, UL, the Ohio Valley Conference or high school ball, fans in this state are going to support it as long as that ball is round and orange. Come up with all the excuses you want on why the NBA would not work in Louisville, but everything that transpired this weekend says otherwise. The logistics of having separate basketball events in one building on the same day was done at Rupp Arena on Saturday, and each event was outstanding for everyone involved. Oscar Combs is as knowledgeable of a Kentucky basketball historian as you will find, and he went as far as saying it was the most incredible two days of hoops in the history of Rupp Arena:

A total of 123,363 fans attended the eight sessions of high school hoops at Rupp Arena this week, and did I mention that for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons, UK captured the national college basketball attendance title? The school down the road usually finishes second, by the way. Louisville is way more suitable than any city on the market for an NBA team, and even more suitable than a lot of present NBA cities, but we don’t need the NBA either. This weekend showed that Kentucky has all the basketball we’ve ever needed already here. The NBA would be smart to move to the Bluegrass, but we’ll also do just fine without it.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

17 Comments for If the Ball is Round and Orange, Kentucky Will Support it

  1. o'boro catfan
    12:21 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Bringing a NBA team to Louisville and renegotiating to U of L contract will be the only way the YUM Center will be finicaly viable over the next 10 years. The tax payers of Jefferson County and the state of Kentucky will have to “pony” up via increased taxes to pay for the YUM!! Mark it down

  2. Bluekzu
    12:28 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    *’dissect’. Sigh. And an NBA team in Louisville could be interesting. I do wonder if the city of Louisville would provide enough fan support/attendance over the long haul, and I’m afraid the Louisville name association could prevent the rest of the state from supporting it. But who knows..

  3. Captain Obvious
    12:29 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Whats that, people in KY like basketball…….u don’t say… article……people in KY like bourbon and Horse Racing….

    1 day doesn’t prove anything, an NBA team will be doomed for failure in Louisville, too small a market and UL/Pitino are totally against it.

  4. TrueCat#1
    12:33 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Great piece! As we all grow older I ponder on the memories of growing up in this state and how connected with basketball it truly is. It is not just about the game itself but the undying tradition behind it. My grandfather is the person that engrained this love from my early childhood. Now after watching for over 30 years together it is only sweeter! I dreamed of playing on that majestic court at UK but nothing can be better than a wonderful afternoon with family and rooting for your team. That is whether it is UK, high school, elementary, or even hearing your grandpa yelling your name at a local church league game. Last year was a great ride as my grandpa and I felt like we had won a championship together. Saturday as the Cats took down those Gators, everybody in the house had to go outside because we were so loud! And I know years will come and go, my grandpa will be gone, but I will one day have my own children/grandchildren that will want to spend their afternoon yelling, screaming, clawing, an coaching with family. That is Kentucky Basketball through and through!

  5. Weasel
    12:34 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    No mention of the fans who followed the women to Georgia for the SEC Tourney, their ball is round and orange and they play an exciting brand of b-ball

  6. RICK
    12:37 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    NBA,No reason to come to KY, Why mess around with a good thing. If the Ky schools werent good the fans might go watch a nba team. Lets combine all the colleges in ky and have one big school and a hell of a sports program and then we might support a nba team.NO we wouldnt.

  7. RahRah
    12:38 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Yes we will! Good post.
    And I think the whole state would support an NBA team with a KY name, but not a Louisville name. As it should be.

  8. the Big Dog
    12:54 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Why in the hell should we care about how many fans the dirtybirds had in the Grease Bucket on Saturday?

  9. KBA
    12:58 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t forget KBA (Kentucky Basketball Academy) They hosted the Division 1 AAU tournament for 2-6th graders. 49 teams competed! Wild weekend for basketball lovers

  10. NBA is weak
    1:11 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    The NBA is for people who don’t really understand the game of basketball and just like dunking.

  11. Burr
    2:13 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    4. Great post. I think that’s why kentucky basketball is so special. It’s apart of life down here

  12. JPhelps
    2:26 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Most incredible 2 days??? Easy Oscar… That’s the most sensationalized overstatement by the media I’ve read all day!

  13. Cat Fan in Georgia
    3:27 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    10 – I’ve been a college basketball fan since the early sixties and think it’s the bast game going…but you are totally wrong about the NBA. It’s the best players in the world (including non-dunking guys like Steve Nash, John Wall, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and John Stockton) playing basketball at the highest level. I used to think that NBA teams played no defense. I was wrong about that. If they didn’t, with all the talent out there, every score would be 150-146, like in the All-Star game.

  14. Cat Fan in Georgia
    3:27 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    * best

  15. JackB
    4:16 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Jeff Royce – Bourbon County 1984 [referenced by Tom Leach here ]- I recall 5 last second shots to tie or win 3 Sweet 16 games (2 went into OT after Royce tied them is my recollection though Leach mentioned only one). Then his tired team lost to Logan County in the finals. Greatest Sweet 16 performance by a non-championship winning player ever.

  16. John B
    5:26 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    I have ticket books for the SEC Tournament. Will sell for face value ($300ea.) They are good for all games. Section 328 Row E Seats 3,4,5,& 6. If interested please call John @ 270-646-0958.

  17. fatbluekid
    6:56 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    So glad that Madison Central won. Love it when that Ghetto Indiana City who honestly would not hurt my feelings if they did not have teams invited. I dispise anything and everything about that nasty city