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:
Madison Central storms from 5 down in last minute to shock Ballard 65-64 for state HS title. Most incredible 2 days of hoops in Rupp history
— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) March 10, 2013
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.