Four of the most-talented athletes to ever play for the University of Kentucky meet in the Final Four of KSR’s BBN Jam Tournament.
In a matchup defined by star-power, one transcends the rest. John Wall made Kentucky basketball the place to play in the 2010s. It took less than 30 seconds for him to transform John Calipari’s program into the coolest college basketball destination in America.
This is the part where I’m obligated to share this incredible piece of music history.
If that entrance wasn’t great enough, Wall backed it up with a buzzer-beater in his first game. It’s the kind of first impression folk heroes only make in movies.
DeMarcus Cousins had his fair share of memorable moments. An absolute bully in the interior, he backed it up with a personality Kentucky fans loved and the Wildcats’ opponents loved to hate.
First, there was the invisible elbow to Jared Swopshire’s head. A few weeks later Mississippi State fans got his phone number, then proceeded to blow up his phone with trash-talk before the game. He responded with 19 points and 14 rebounds in an overtime win at The Hump, now simply known as the “Call Me” game. When they met again in the SEC Tournament Championship, Cousins tipped in a shot at the buzzer to force overtime, eventually leading to a Wildcat win.
Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did something the 2010 Cats could not do — end the season with a win. Infamously bounced after a poor shooting performance against West Virginia in the Elite Eight, Wall and Cousins’ careers ended in tears. Davis’ ended with every single award imaginable — National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Final Four MOP, Olympic Gold Medalist — to cap off one of the most dominant seasons in college basketball history.
Davis had plenty of help from upperclassmen — Darius Miller, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb — but a fellow freshman was his most valuable running mate. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a consensus Second Team All-American. A defensive specialist, he mastered the art of shutting down the opponent’s best player, then dunking on their face.
A season filled with dramatic moments, the one Calipari brings up the most came in the final minutes of the National Championship Game. MKG got beat backdoor. Instead of giving up on the play and letting the Jayhawks cut the UK lead to four, he made an incredible play at the rim to block the shot from behind, ultimately securing No. 8.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The 2012 Wildcats fell under Calipari’s “positionless basketball” moniker before he frequently used the phrase. Versatile athletes that could guard any opponent, their abilities ensure they will not be a mismatch against the explosive point guard and powerful center. Wall’s unprecedented speed would be mitigated by MKG’s length. The same applies with Davis’ long arms against the big-bodied Boogie.
There’s no doubt in my mind this game would be defined by defense. All four players relied on their athleticism to create offense. With four elite athletes sharing the same court, will power is the only thing putting points on the board.
Who has the advantage in this matchup? Only you can decide.