Every preseason has its rituals: securing Big Blue Madness tickets, studying the new team picture, hanging the schedule on the fridge (mine just went up today), and, of course, getting the new team poster from Kroger. Yesterday, UK gave fans a sneak peek of all four versions of this year’s posters (distribution details here), which feature two players on each side, as well as John Calipari and Adolph Rupp:
The posters are pretty sweet, and, from a graphics standpoint, the best of the Calipari Era (even if they include the new secondary Wildcat logo). I spent some time today looking back at the other posters of the Calipari era and ranked them for you in terms of appearance, composition, or simply, “Would I hang this on my wall?”. I’ll start with my favorite, then work down to least favorite.
1. 2016-2017 Team Poster
As I said earlier, from a graphic design standpoint, these are by far the most compelling of the Calipari Era posters. Each poster/side pairs two players up in almost a mirror image with the schedule in the middle and banners at the top. Unfortunately, UK decided to use the new UK logo and keep Big Bertha in there (why not use a mock-up of the new scoreboard?), but the high-def portraits against the black background are striking and sophisticated, showcasing UK photographer Chet White’s excellent work.
As you’ll see, we’ve come a long way, baby.
2. 2013-2014: “Play Like Wildcats”
I’m a big fan of posters in which the players are “anchored” in something and not just floating around space. This poster is a good example of that. Clean, classic, and showcasing each player in proper proportion (including Brian Long’s fauxhawk and Tod Lanter’s biceps), the composition of this image is excellent. Sometimes simple is best.
3. 2014-2015: “Succeed & Proceed”
UK really got some mileage out of this poster, releasing collectable versions of each frame throughout the season at home games. For that reason, I’ve got it in my top three because of the personalized slogan for each player (Alex: “Courage Doesn’t Always Roar”; Tyler Ulis: “Heart Over Height”). The composition of the poster may not be the most exciting in the world, but I’ll admit that I will cherish it for sentimental reasons.
4. 2015-2016: “Who Wants to Be Next?”
I love the state outline insert with Rupp and the bold KENTUCKY across the top, but the photoshopped players in various poses kind of ruins it for me. It just looks too messy on top of so many other layers of images; however, considering the bottom four of my rankings, it is light years ahead of the rest…
5. 2010-2011: “It Happens Here”
This is the first of what I call the “vignette posters,” which feature clusters of images paired with phrases (i.e.: “Celebrate” with DeMarcus in the UK2K shirt). It’s a nice way to feature a lot of pictures and accomplishments from the previous season (which was a huge one to say the least), but it’s all a little too much. It feels like looking inside Calipari’s brain, and not in a good way.
6. 2012-2013: “Count On It”
This is what I call the Count von Count poster, in which the numbers 1-8 represent not only the school’s eight national championships, but various other things, like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going first and second in the 2012 Draft, a terribly photoshopped Kyle Wiltjer doing three goggles, Final Fours, and the 2012 National Championship trophy.
The trophy saves this poster for me, honestly. Again, we’ve got a lot of propaganda in a small space, too much if you ask me. Thankfully, over the years, the posters have become less about Calipari’s latest buzzwords and more about actual design.
7. 2011-2012: “Kentucky Effect”
It’s a shame that the 2012 team didn’t have a poster to match their talent. This one isn’t horrible, just a little plain. It’s basically a shrine to Calipari’s latest slogan at the time, the “Kentucky Effect.” Several of the program’s accomplishments are featured alongside pictures of the players, and, for some reason, Josh Harrellson in his cap and gown (we graduate players, too!).
Looking back, it would be fun to recreate this poster with various players’ accomplishments “on the court, in the classroom, and in life”…Anthony Davis as a megastar, Brandon Knight still reciting Shakespeare, and Doron Lamb on his phone, tweeting about life, love, and his latest meal. Now that’s a poster I would hang on my wall.
8. 2009-2010: “One World, One Big Blue Nation”
I realize this was Calipari’s first year in Lexington, but couldn’t we have gotten him a better inaugural poster? There’s a lot going on here. The designer really went all in on the “One World” theme, making the basketball into the planet Earth and scattering different translations of “Go Big Blue” all around the top of the poster, aka space. It’s as though a world studies major got a hold of the project and went to town. Yes, we know there is a Paris, Kentucky and a Paris, France; what does that have to do with basketball?
The only explanation I can think of is Calipari trying to market the program to international players like Enes Kanter, who committed to Kentucky in November 2009. Remember when Calipari was obsessed with China for a while? This poster came out around the same time. On a team with such big personalities like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, I’m a little sad we couldn’t come up with something better than a display for an international fair.