Kentucky Basketball has one of the richest traditions in college sports history, but they haven’t made much of an impact on the NBA historically – that is until John Calipari arrived in Lexington.
Over at ESPN, they asked their NBA writers to create an all-time starting five for every franchise throughout its history. Five former Wildcats made the cut, although three of them have come out of UK in just the last decade.
John Wall (Washington Wizards), Anthony Davis, Jamal Mashburn (New Orleans Pelicans), Cliff Hagan (St. Louis Hawks), and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) were the hoopers nominated to their respective organization’s all-time starting five. Here’s what the worldwide leader had to say about a few of the players.
Davis and Mashburn – Pelicans:
Mashburn, in the franchise’s first season in New Orleans in 2002-03, made the All-Star team and was a third-team All-NBA selection. The Pelicans didn’t get another All-Star selection from a wing player until this year, when Ingram made it.
Mashburn was limited to 101 games for New Orleans, but his impact in Year 1 was unmistakable and he still sits second on the team’s career scoring average list (21.5), behind only Davis.
Mashburn only played two total seasons in New Orleans – the final two of his NBA career. In his first season, the one mentioned above, he was 31 years old at the time and had never made an All-Star team up until then. Mashburn posted a career-high 5.6 assists per game in that season to go along with 21.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. He played just 19 games in his second season with NOLA. Luckily for Mashburn, the New Orleans franchise has struggled to find elite forwards throughout their history. He only had to beat out the likes of Eric Gordon, Brandon Ingram, and Peja Stojakovic.
Towns – Timberwolves:
The three best players in franchise history just all happen to be big men: Garnett, Love and Towns. Garnett is the franchise leader in points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks; he’s the only player in NBA history to lead a team in all five categories. Towns (22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds in 358 games) and Love (19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds in 364 games) each put up monster numbers, even though playoff success never came.
(Side note: Towns is only 14 3-pointers away from becoming the franchise’s all-time leader. Seriously.)
Two other basketball legends with Kentucky ties also made the list; Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) and Shawn Kemp (Seattle Supersonics). The former has said he would have gone to Kentucky had he not made the leap straight to the pros while Kemp ultimately left the program before even playing one game as a Wildcat.
What do you think? Did ESPN miss anyone important? Overall, I agree with where they ranked Kentucky players. I think there could be an argument made that Dan Issel should be on the Denver Nuggets all-time roster, but it’s hard to choose him over Dikembe Mutombo. John Wall was given the nod over Gilbert Arenas as the Wizards all-time starting point guard, and to play devil’s advocate, I could see why someone might pick Arenas instead.
I found it interesting that Cliff Hagan made the list for the Hawks franchise, considering how long ago he played. But by all means, he was a legitimate All-Star for several consecutive seasons and even made the All-Star roster five years in a row. He played as a 6-foot-4 forward back in the late 1950s-early 1960s but ESPN tabbed him as a guard for position purposes.
Give it another decade and we might see a few more Kentucky names on this list.