The majority of stops on the debut of Ice Cube’s BIG 3 basketball tour have been in large market cities with professional teams, with some local talent at each location to generate fan turnout.
Despite Lexington locals loving their basketball, there were no Kentucky Wildcats participating in the event, causing some to wonder why exactly they scheduled the event at Rupp Arena.
The next-best thing? 15-year NBA veteran and former Cincinnati Bearcat Kenyon Martin.
Martin quickly became one of the stars of the BIG 3 events with his fiery personality and defensive presence in the paint. The 39-year-old only finished with four points, two blocks, and a rebound in his team’s victory at Rupp Arena today, but his comments following the game may force UK fans to wonder what could have been.
“As a kid, you idolize Kentucky basketball,” Martin said. “Rick Pitino was an iconic figure here, that’s who I wanted to play for then. He left and went to the Celtics, and then they brought in Tubby, so I decided to go to the University of Cincinnati. It’s one of those things where if you didn’t grow up liking Kentucky basketball, you weren’t a basketball fan.”
Martin is still the Cincinnati’s all-time leader in career blocked shots (292) and field goal percentage (.586.) His college career was so impressive, the Bearcats retired his No. 4 jersey almost immediately after he left for the NBA.
The consensus first-team All-American went on to become the No. 1 pick in the 2000 NBA Draft to the New Jersey Nets, and the rest is history. Martin averaged 12.3 points and seven rebounds a game in his 15-year career, made the All-Rookie team (First-Team,) All-Star selection in 2004, etc.
And he was THIS close to being a Wildcat.
Watch the entirety of the press conference below: