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The Sporting News ranked the Top 10 UK Basketball Players of All Time

Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News is spending the offseason ranking the top ten players from several major programs, and this morning, tackled the impossible task of selecting the top ten players to ever play at Kentucky. How did he do? I’ll let you be the judge:

1. Dan Issel
2. Ralph Beard
3. Anthony Davis
4. Cliff Hagan
5. Jamal Mashburn
6. Alex Groza
7. Tony Delk
8. Jack Givens
9. Kevin Grevey
10. Kenny Walker

Click on over to The Sporting News to see his reasoning for each pick. As a somewhat younger UK fan, it’s weird not to see Anthony Davis on top, but it’s hard to argue against Issel and Beard.

[The Sporting News]

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

62 Comments for The Sporting News ranked the Top 10 UK Basketball Players of All Time

  1. This Dude
    10:01 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Noticed Anthony wasn’t on top, stopped looking at list.

  2. Jordan
    10:04 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Tayshaun Prince anyone?

  3. Eric
    10:06 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Are we talking best while at UK? Or just best players? If we are talking strictly best players, there needs to be more Cal guys on the list. Also, Tayshaun, and Keith Bogans need to be in the convo.

  4. R.H. Gray
    10:12 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Issel averaged



    • Ima N. Touch
      6:17 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Agreed. Dan Issel was the man. In college. In the ABA. Did well in ther NBA. Issel is a legend. Illinois stole Lincoln. Rupp stole Issel.

  5. That’s an ABA photo isn’t it? I don’t think UK wore those unis.

  6. Jebus
    10:18 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Jeff Sheppard?

  7. dan
    10:20 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    jamal mashburn in any spot but #1 or #2 means the homework wasn’t done, or they never really watched him play in a uk uniform.

    • D
      3:23 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink


    • mashburnfan1
      6:46 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      YES YES YES….I am not old enough to have seen all the players but none could have meant more to a program at the time than “Monster Mash”.

  8. Me
    10:21 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Pat Riley. Who else has had the impact on the game he has?

  9. asdf
    10:24 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    It’s important to point out that the older players have a bit of an advantage because they have full careers, while the younger guys, like Davis, are just getting started. It will be interesting to revisit this list in 20 years.

  10. Mixxy
    10:27 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Wall already has two all-star games and has been the franchise player to turn Washington into a borderline contender again. How is that not top-10 worthy? I love “Sky”, but aside from winning a slam dunk contest, what did he really do in the pros?

    • theoskaris
      7:31 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Wall is not there because the Sporting News article is only judging the players based on their college career, not their pro career. And one year, even a very good year, just doesn’t compare, as asdf states above. (Davis being the sole exception since he was also the consensus national player of the year.)

  11. mikethewinehead
    10:31 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    I’am from the old School. How about Cotton Nash, Johnny Cox, Adrain Smith, Parker. Rick Robey, Louie Dampier (Best shooter ever at Kentucky), Pat Riley, and Patrick Patterson. Just nameing a few.

  12. jimlowe7
    10:32 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Impossible to choose without EXACT parameters (like stats only, college only, college and pro, impact on program, etc.) but I am satisfied except for Delk…

  13. Rings of Magloire
    10:40 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Well, no one is going to 100% agree with anyone’s opinion list. That’s why I hate “what about (fill in the blank)” posts. But he’s got the right idea for the most part on his and can’t fault him too much on it.

  14. Bret Garett
    10:45 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Prince and Bogans in no way need to be in the discussion for top 10 players at UK. Hard to get too many of Cal’s players on this list with just one season. Issel has to be #1 no question.

  15. Eric
    10:46 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Greatest player lists are almost impossible to construct when you are opening it to multiple generations. Younger guys didn’t see Walker play, much less Issel and Grevey … And Hagan or Beard? Not hardly, unless it was on film. The list should be the ” Greatest Players I’ve Seen Play at UK”. No answer would be wrong. It’s all good when you’re lauding great UK players of any generation.

    • Mixxy
      10:56 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      It this list is all about college careers, then Walker belongs, but it it’s about college and pro combined, then he doesn’t. As dominant as he was at times in college, he was a non-factor in the NBA. In one of Pitino’s books, he wrote about how he, as coach of the Knicks (right before he came to UK), actually had to teach Walker how to dribble, because all he did in college was catch and score inside. That extremely limited skill-set served Kentucky very well, but it hurt Walker a lot once he graduated.

  16. absolute9145
    10:52 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Kyle Macy?

    • KevinM
      11:14 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Macy deserves Top 10. So important to this program at the time.

  17. really?
    10:55 am July 20, 2015 Permalink


  18. BlueRhino
    10:56 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Call me crazy, and I know those are the ABA unis, but I think it’d be awesome if UK and nike could pay homage to the colonels with a throwback uniform for a game or two… Obviously, have to update the fit and the length of those shorts. Crazy, or cool?

    • 8 god, the liberal crusader
      11:35 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Way cool. UK Athletics seems unreasonably reluctant to experiment with uniforms — obviously, basketball unis are not as dynamic as football, but would like to see some new concepts.

      That said, this specifically won’t happen because no one wants to closely associate a Calipari team with professionalism. And there are probably still trademarking conflicts.

  19. Laker Cat 18
    10:56 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    It’s obvious the 1-and-done played a part in this list. You have to correlate those guys into a projected 4-year stay when comparing to most others. You have to at least look at guys like Towns, Rondo, and Wall using similar comparisons. The competition now is a lot different than the competition then. In other words, a 4-year Anthony Davis vs. a 4-year Dan Issel…I’m taking Davis. Davis could be a top 10 player all-time at any level 10 years from now. Issel is not.

    • 8 god, the liberal crusader
      11:36 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Rondo sucked!

    • Dude
      11:39 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Rondo sucked…? LOL

    • Dude
      11:43 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      A four-time All-Star, two-time assist title-holder and 2008 NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo’s extensive, accolade-rich résumé speaks for itself.

      An offensive maestro with the ball in his hands and one of the top facilitators in League history, the Kentucky product holds the fourth-highest assist percentage (41.06) and 11th-best assists-per-game average (8.3) of all time — ahead of Hall of Famers Bob Cousy, Tiny Archibald and Gary Payton

      Since the start of the 2008-09 season, the 6-foot-1 guard is tied with LeBron James for most regular-season triple-doubles (22), while his 10 career Playoff triple-double ties him for fourth on the all-time League annals. In Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Rondo nearly single-handedly toppled the eventual champion Miami Heat — pouring in a career-high 44 points along with 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals — less than three months after joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the third player ever to log at least 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists in a single contest.

    • 8 god, the liberal crusader
      12:05 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Right. Hence the past tense. NBA Rondo is a phenom.

      However, the list is of the greatest UK players of all time, and Rondo was a waste of talent in college. Doesn’t even come near my all-time top 30.

    • KYDrew
      1:09 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      You can’t have it both ways. If you leave, you don’t get virtual credit for the work that you probably would have done. Sorry but one and done’s don’t get to be on the same lists. They got money instead. Lots and lots of it. But I will add that a player as great as Davis transcends this point, but no one else.

    • J-Dub421
      1:22 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      If going pro early was an option back in the day, a lot of former UK players would have left early. They stayed 4 years because they had to. Don’t penalize modern players for leaving early and act like guys like Issel stayed out of love for the program. They stayed 4 years because that was the rule.

    • catdaddyd
      7:46 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Dude, it’s college playing time only. Not the pro careers.

  20. Mixxy
    11:00 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Bowie, minus leg injuries, would have been Anthony Davis come a generation early, but we can’t ignore that the injuries happened, either. He still had a very respectable NBA career, but he was a shadow of the player he once was prior to that last big bone break.

  21. Bill
    11:01 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Issel is my ALL-TIME #1 – Grevey and Givens need to be higher!

  22. sincitycat
    11:07 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Cotton Nash not being on this list is an absolute joke as is Dan Issel being number one. With no disrespect to Dan, he was not a good defensive player nor did he have mental toughness (like Pat Riley and Louie Dampier). I would take a healthy Sam Bowie over Dan Issel any day.

  23. Chris
    11:11 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Frank Ramsey

  24. Mark Ison
    11:14 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    More interesting than the specific names is the fact that there is not a single Tubby-recruited player or Sutton-recruited player on this list. We will just ignore Billy Clyde, but consider that Pitino and Cal each had less time than Tubby, and have a player or two on that list. This just once again underscores how important recruiting is to winning. The anomaly will always be Hall, who had some of the best players UK ever recruited and probably underachieved after 1978.

  25. S kelly
    11:14 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    I love Tony Delk…but him being ranked ahead of Kenny Walker disturbs me. Kenny carried his teams at UK, well he did after Turpin and Bowie left.

    • J-Dub421
      11:44 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Delk carried his team to a title and tied the NCAA records for most three’s made in the tournament finals.

    • S kelly
      12:26 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Delk had a lot more help than Walker….

    • J-Dub421
      1:19 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      That doesn’t detract from Delk’s talent.

    • S Kelly
      3:07 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Not at all. Look I love Tony Delk, always will, but Kenny Walker was double teamed nightly his junior and senior years and still put up 21 points per game over those two years. Plus, he finished second in career scoring, only 58 points behind Issel (only fair to say that Dan did it in one less year). That 96 team Delk was on is still my favorite UK team, and he was great, but I just feel Kenny deserves a higher ranking.

    • J-Dub421
      3:32 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

      I like Kenny too, but Delk was the best player on one of the 2-3 best teams we’ve ever had.

  26. kentuck1
    11:30 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Well, that’s a tough one!

    Issel was a scoring machine, in college and in the pros. All-time leading scorer cannot be over-looked. Best shooter ever at Kentucky was Louie Dampier.. Also, difficult not to see Kyle Macy ahead of Tayshaun and Kenny Walker, simply for basketball knowledge and over-all skills.

    • G-Man
      11:50 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

      Macy also had a decent pro career, probably not quite as good as Tayshaun, but far above what Walker did.

  27. Sanford Montgomery
    11:50 am July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Any top 10 list of all time best UK b ball players that does NOT include Louie D is composed by someone that does NOT know UK basketball !!! FACT !

  28. catfan4life
    1:23 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    You are so right, Sanford Montgomery, Louie was the best player on a terrific team. Walker would have been a better pro if he hadn’t messed up his tendon. He was such a joy to watch even before the big dogs left and carried the team with multiple defenses haplessly geared to stop him. Walker deserves to be there.

    It is insane trying to set any parameter that could justify who is the best players at UK. There are many, many deserving of accolades.

  29. Kevin
    1:26 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Davis is without a doubt the best to ever play at UK . In one year he accomplished more than Issel did in 3. How can a guy at the top college program in the country be named the greatest ever at that school when he wasn’t even the best player in the country any of the 3 years he played . He was never a national player of the year and he never won a national title at UK . In one year Davis won every national player of the year award , the defensive player of the year , the final 4 mvp , the conference player of the year , the conference defensive player of the year , was the number 1 pick in the NBA draft and to cap it off he just won a gold medal in the Olympics . END of discussion . Isell never even won a player of the year award or a national title .

  30. louielouie
    1:45 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    No Louie Dampier is down right Kentucky basketball blasphemy

  31. Dean
    3:07 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Issel was great, but second to A Davis

  32. JATR4
    3:34 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Cotton Nash averaged 22.7 points per game and 12+ rebounds. He only played in 78 games in his 3 years since they played less games in the sixties. And he didn’t have much help from the others on those teams. His stats are much better than Mashburn’s. Davis will end up the greatest pro but he only played one year at UK. Nash played every position like Mashburn. The only player on the list with better stats is Issel.

  33. lexslamman
    4:05 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Dampier, Prince, Bowie instead of Grevey, Walker, and Delk.

  34. Paul
    4:57 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Ramsey, Dampier and Wall? None better than these three. I remember Beard and he was great but couldn’t have kept up with the modern era guards.

  35. Earl
    7:47 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    I know if I was picking a team I would want Davis first. Mashburn second. Antoine Walker was an All Star. John Wall also another All Star. Maybe Issel but definitely not first.

  36. Teachervvj
    8:10 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    1. Jamal Mashburn
    2. Cotton Nash
    3. Dan Issel
    4. Anthony Davis
    5. Rex Chapman
    6. Kenny Walker
    7. Jack Givens
    8. Kevin Grevey
    9. Tayshaun Prince
    10. Kyle Macy

  37. Bob
    8:28 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    Man what an job this would be trying to pick 10 players out of all UK basketball teams to be honest an impossible task. Wall was one of the best to ever play the game period ,then there’s old school Cox and Nash and on and on. The Twin Towers, .Jay S ,,Micheal Kidd,, Look at this pass years team. I think every player at UK is in my top ten however lets not forget Hatton i think is how he spelled his name. But my #1 all time player in my life time is Cotton Nash with Pat Riley as best lifetime career . As an small child Nash blew me away listening to Cawood call his game .Maybe Cawood was just that good.

  38. Dennis Smith
    9:00 pm July 20, 2015 Permalink

    IMO Kyle Macy must be on that list.

  39. Billie Gillispie
    1:42 am July 22, 2015 Permalink

    1. Saul Smith
    2. Todd Svoboda
    3. Preston Lemaster
    4. Jason Parker
    5. Sam Malone
    6. Rashad Caruth
    7. Marvin Stone
    8. Steve Masiello
    9. Shagari Alleyne
    10. Ryan Harrow