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Legendary Kentucky teams


With a basketball tradition as rich as the one we have here at Kentucky, we have had numerous legendary teams who have stepped on the courts of Memorial and Rupp. I’ve grown up hearing stories about players and teams in UK’s history that have had a great impact on our legendary program here at UK. Every time I hear a story from my grandpa or someone else who was able to witness UK’s glory days, I always find myself wishing I could go back in time and watch these teams in person. With the team this year being one of the best to come through UK in quite a while, it got me reminiscing again on specific years I wish I was alive to witness certain teams as a student at UK.

While there are many teams I wish I could go back in time to watch, my number one would have to be the Fabulous Five under Adolph Rupp, the 1947-48 season. Ralph Beard, Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, Cliff Barker, Alex Groza, and Kenny Rollins are all legends to me. Rupp once said about this team, “You won your own SEC tournament. You won the NCAA championship. You’ve kept training and made sacrifices to do these things.” Not only were these athletes amazing individually, but they were even more amazing as a team. They accomplished many great feats, not only winning the SEC tournament, and National Championship, but they went on to the Olympics and earned gold medals. They were a group of guys who not only made Kentucky proud, but their country proud as well.

We all have moments in UK basketball history that we will always remember and carry with us forever. I’ve been able to watch some great teams come through UK, and watch some amazing athletes. But if you were granted a wish where you could go back in time to watch one team in the history of UK basketball, which team would you chose to watch? Would it be any of the national championship teams? Would it be the Fabulous Five? Would it be the 1966 team in Glory Road? Or maybe you just wish you could go back and see a specific player grace the court? With Kentucky being the greatest tradition in college basketball we have plenty of teams to choose from, and with Calipari bringing in top recruiting classes, Kentucky will continue to produce great teams, who could eventually be mentioned among these other legends.

Article written by Tara Bilby

40 Comments for Legendary Kentucky teams

  1. Mark Wilson
    9:29 am January 6, 2012 Permalink


  2. Space between John Hoods jersey and chest
    9:29 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I would go back and kidnap CoughChristianLaettnerCough or put some exlax in his coffee…ect

  3. Mark Wilson
    9:31 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I would go back to watch the 47-48 team indeed, they did it all SEC, National Title, and gold medals….that will never happen again.

  4. TrinityPills
    9:33 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    My wish is not for me…but for the people who continue to second-guess Calipari, his coaching ability, and his methods. I wish they could go back to 2006-2008 and watch Billy Gillispie’s teams.

  5. nolablue
    9:33 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    It seems the NCAA and Universities are always looking for ways to make money. One thing I wish they’d do for
    some of the legendary basketball and football schools, is put together some “box sets” of DVDs that have a collection
    of all the Championship Games of a given school. And maybe a ‘deluxe edition” that would contain something
    like a flash drive of the local audio of those games. I’d pay a pretty good chunk o’ change for that!

    I guess the one I’d want to go back in time to see would be the 1951 Championship game vs. Kansas State.

    9:34 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    No way you would want to watch the 48 team. No way you would’ve known their names without looking them up

  7. Winston Churchill
    9:34 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I’d like to go back to the early 50’s to watch Hagan-Ramsey-Spivey too.

  8. warrior
    9:35 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I would want to go back and watch Ronnie Lyons, Jim Andrews, Jimmy Dan Conner, Mike Flynn.

  9. symphonist
    9:37 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I’d love to see the Fabulous Five team, even though the game has changed so much since then (note: they played in Alumni Gym before Memorial was built). The undefeated team of Cliff Hagen (’53?) would be great to watch also. My Dad saw Rupp’s Runts in ’66 and said there would never again be a TEAM their equal. I’m very proud of the fact that my oldest son, my Dad, & I got to see the Final Four team of ’93 in person, and getting to see the awesome ’96 national championship team in person will always be a great memory

  10. Jarred
    9:41 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I’m only 18. I’d just like to see the unforgetables

  11. Always > U ..ofL
    9:48 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Team: Rupps Runts.
    Player: Goose
    Is it going to be 52 degrees today?: Yes
    Why are you still reading my post after that last comment?: I don’t know.

  12. Al's IndiCats
    9:52 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I saw them play a few times on tv growing up, but I would’ve loved to seen both Dan Issel and Louie Dampier play for UK in person.

  13. Jack
    9:54 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    My wish would be to see this team win championship #8…. If you are going to wish, wish big!!!

  14. Al's IndiCats
    9:55 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Good One 12!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. krmcats
    9:58 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I have an autographed picture of the team from Ralph Beard. He was a great player & a personal friend of mine.

  16. bung
    10:03 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    GREAT article Tara…more stuff about our tradition of great players and especially Coach Rupp is always good.

  17. goodsam
    10:10 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Love to see the first four NCAA champions, including the Fiddling Five. Like to see the Runts again, 1978 again, and the Unforgettables again.

    Spivey must have been some player!

  18. donating blood
    10:17 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    1958 fiddlin 5 or 53 or 54 undefeated

  19. Jared
    10:29 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    The reason there was so much excitement during the 09-10 Cousins/Wall year is because it was Calipari’s first year, we had the #1 recruiting class, and there was night-and-day difference between the 09-10 Calipari team and the 08-09 Gillespie team.

  20. Space between John Hoods jersey and chest
    10:31 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I would watch Basil Hayden while drining Basil Hayden…

  21. stevem
    10:33 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    The Runts and Louie Dampier.

  22. symphonist
    10:39 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Agree #11

  23. ToeMater
    10:41 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    So, Matt puts Drew in charge and the next thing you know there is a new college girl are posting on here every day. Strange. Or maybe “Strange”…?

  24. HillbillyInBC
    10:48 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I would go back to 1970 and watch Dan Issel and Pete Maravich light the nets on fire in two epic victories over LSU. As it is, I have only a vague memory of watching one of those games on a tiny black-and-white TV in a barbershop in Whitesburg.

  25. ToeMater
    10:49 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Oh. Comment removed? Really?

  26. Steve Fitts
    10:50 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    The “glory days” of UK basketball were NOT the ’40s, ’50s, or ’60! The “glory days” of UK basketball are TODAY! In the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, UK recruited some of the best WHITE players in America. Meanwhile, hundreds of superbly talented African-American athletes were not even recruited by UK and ended up starring at the historically black universities such as Kentucky State. Ask yourself one question: where would UK basketball be today if Calipari only recruited the best WHITE players in America? (Kyle Wiltjer would be our top scorer and Jared Polston would be our point guard.) Yet that is exactly what UK did in the supposedly “glory days” of UK basketball. Of course, UK wasn’t alone. Most major universities (except the historically black institutions) only recruited white ballplayers back then. My point is, from a talent standpoint, the UK teams of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s were lightyears behind the UK teams of today, because today UK recruits that best high school players of ALL races, not just the best WHITE players. The “fabulous five” would have been 10 times MORE fabulous with the best African-American players of their day, and Rupp’s Runts wouldn’t have been—well, RUNTS–with the best African-American players of their day. THESE are the “glory days” of UK basketball, not the ’40s, ’50s, or ’60s!!!

  27. _Blackhawk_
    11:01 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    #25 you are assuming way to much…of course the glory days of UK were in that time period….just as they were in the 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s and so on…we have a tradition of getting the best players and winning games/titles…have done that from the day Rupp took over. To say that it would have been different if we had gotten som other player is crazy because last time I checked we still won those games/titles with the white guys you seem to be throwing under the bus. Things change and evolve…clearly recruiting changed for the better and race relations have gotten better over time since the 40’s and 50’s but dude we still won then. All you are seeing is UK’s tradition of winning by getting the best players they can get at the time.

    As for going back I would love to see Issel and company but for me getting to see those guys in 92 would be on the top of the list. I know they didn’t win a title but that team is a perfect example of UK’s passion and desire towards basketball and is representation of it’s fanbase as well. Loved that team…still my favorite one of all.

  28. JRA
    11:53 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I listened to the Rupp’s Runts, never did get to see them. Would love to see them play and be able to listen to Caywood call it! I miss Caywood!

  29. JRA
    11:54 am January 6, 2012 Permalink

    excuse me Cawood!

  30. symphonist
    12:07 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Very well put, #26. Different times, different society. With Rupp’s passion for winning there’s no doubt in my mind he would have recruited non-white players if UK was in a different conference, but being in the SEC he was also pragmatic & realistic enough to understand that those same players would have been in physical danger in places like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, etc. and most SEC schools at the time wouldn’t have even let a racially desegregated UK team on their court. If memory serves correctly, UK became the SEC representative in the NCAA tournament by default a couple of times in the 50s/60s because the conference winners wouldn’t participate in a tournament that allowed non-white players on the courts. UK’s all-white teams weren’t necessarily a reflection of racism on the part of Adolph Rupp, they were a reflection of the times, whether good or bad, and Rupp was smart enough to understand that.

  31. hey
    12:10 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I’m 35 and As the years go by the unforgettables are getting more forgettable. They did have one unforgettable game that we were 2.4 seconds from winning.

  32. Doubting Thomas
    12:22 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    #25 – Are you nuts or what? The 47-48 team won the SEC, The National Championship and a gold medal in the Olympics! How can you say those are not the glory days of UK basketball. Do you think any of the college teams in the past 60 or so years could have accomplished this? If you do you need to get off the sauce dude.

  33. Bluebarn
    12:27 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    #23, I was at the game in Memorial. Maravich was so amazing that I didn’t realize how good Issel was playing. I knew he was playing pretty good, but he was overshadowed by Pistol Pete and his amazing feats.

  34. cornbreadmafiacook
    12:34 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    um, Tara? that “…1966 team in Glory Road?” would be the “Rupp’s Runts”. they’re fairly famous in their own right around here

    i’d like to be able to see the dampier/issel teams, as they were my Dad’s favorite

  35. cornbreadmafiacook
    12:36 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    #30, you’re not right. the unforgettables are unforgettable for a helluva lot more reasons than just the dUKe game

  36. tom
    1:24 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I remember back to the 66 team. I would very much liked to have seen the 1932-33 team that won a mythical national championship (Helms). It had a guy on it named Forest Sale who was named National Player of the Year and who Rupp once called one of his best players ever.

  37. Tuscaloosacat
    2:38 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Hands down, James Lee, 1978 Cats.

  38. Kevin
    2:45 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I liked watching Pitino’s second team play. They were on probation but they played so hard and together.

  39. UK'64
    4:01 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    I wated the Runts when they were The Century Express as freshmen. Cotton Nash was the man then, avg about 27 points a game.I beleive Dampier may have been on that team also. Tommy Kron was an amazing athelete playing the point on the 1-3-1. He could run back and forth all day.

  40. UK'64
    4:05 pm January 6, 2012 Permalink

    Forgot to mention I listened to Claude Sullivan before Cawood calling the games. He was also a legend on 840.