No. 15 - Kentucky Wins Their First Ever National Championship
The Player: Joe Holland
The Sneaker: Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star
Who knew that back in 1947 that the start of one of college basketball's best programs would begin to rise to prominence? 16 seasons after Adolph Rupp took the job as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, Rupp brought the NIT Championship back to Lexington to the first time.
Sidenote: Can you imagine any major college program waiting sixteen years for a coach to bring home a title?
No. 14 - UK Wins Back-To-Back NCAA Championships
The Player: Alex Groza
The Sneaker: Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star
UK's first transcendant superstar back in the late 1940's was Alex Groza. Groza, who was the lead dog of Kentucky's first version of their own "Fabulous Five" brought two NCAA championships to the Wildcat nation and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player both times.
Sidenote: Groza was also the brother of NFL Hall of Famer Lou Groza. Also, Groza would go on to the NBA and eventually be banned for point shaving in 1951. (Only if Twitter existed 62 years ago...)
No. 13 - Jack Givens Brings Kentucky Their First Title Post-Adolph Rupp
The Player: Jack Givens
The Sneaker: Converse Weapon
A native of Lexington and winner of the Kentucky's Mr. Basketball coming out of high school, having a chance to play for the Wildcats just seemed like the natural line of progression for Givens. Who knew that would come with another national championship for UK, as Givens led the Wildcats to the 1978 NCAA Championship and was named that year's Final Four Most Outstanding Player. 41 points in the title game over Duke in a 94-88 victory will earn you such an award.
No. 12 - Rick Pitino And Tony Delk Bring Title #6 To Kentucky
The Player: Tony Delk
The Sneaker: Converse R.A.W. Energy
Rick Pitino took over a Kentucky program suffering from NCAA sanctions and during his first two seasons was only able to amass a 36-20 record. The next four seasons? 114-23. That record was due to Pitino's run and gun style and players like Tony Delk, who was named the 1996 tournament's Most Outstanding Player, who brought Kentucky their sixth national championship.
Sidenote: Converse signed a deal with Arkansas and Kentucky to provide a noteworthy full-scale apparel deal in 1996, something that would quickly be replicated by different apparel companies and schools shortly thereafter.
No. 11 - "The Untouchables" Send 9 Kentucky Players From The 1995-96 Title Squad Make It To The NBA
The Player: Ron Mercer
The Sneaker: Converse Cons Blue
What's notable about the 1995-96 national champions is that nine players on the squad ended up putting on an NBA uniform after their days in Kentucky. Known as "The Untouchables," Kentucky players Derek Anderson, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, Nazr Mohammed, Mark Pope, Jeff Sheppard, Wayne Turner and Antoine Walker all collected a NBA paycheck. What they did with those paychecks, well...that's a different story.
No. 10 - The Unbelievables Almost Make Magic Happen In 1997
The Player: Wayne Turner
The Sneaker: Converse Dr. J 2000
Following the 1996 championship, the 1997 Kentucky squad was thought to be unfit to repeat as championships. With multiple players leaving for the NBA draft, with injuries and transfers decimating the roster, the nickname "The Unbelievables" was what rang loud in Lexington. "The Unbelievables" team improbably reached the NCAA Championship where they eventually fell to Arizona in the title game. A new leader emerged for the Wildcats in Wayne Turner, as the point guard eventually set the record for career games played.
No. 9 - Tubby Smith's Comeback Cats Win UK's 7th National Championship
The Player: Jeff Sheppard
The Sneaker: Nike Air Adjust Force
Rick Pitino decided to take his talents to Boston to become the next Celtics' head coach (that didn't end well) and Tubby Smith was named his successor. In his first season as coach, Smith took over the reigns and went on another magical run that helped earn UK the name, "Cardiac Cats" as the title-winning squad came back from double-digit deficits in each of its last three games in the tournament. The most memorable? The Kentucky comeback vs. Duke in the Elite Eight.
No. 8 - Kentucky Goes Undefeated In SEC Play
The Player: Keith Bogans
The Sneaker: Nike Air Flightposite III
While the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats were primarily players recruited by Rick Pitino, the 2003 squad was built around what many dubbed in Lexington as "Tubbyball." Led by an unheralded group of players like Kelenna Azubuike, Gerald Fitch and Keith Bogans, the Wildcats went undefeated in SEC play and finished with a 32-4 overall record. Unfortunately, in the Final Four the Wildcats met up with a phenom guard named Dwyane Wade from Marquette and UK was upset yet again.
No. 7 - The BasketBowl Becomes Host To The Largest Regular Season Game In HIstory
The Player: Gerald Fitch
The Sneaker: Air Jordan XII French Blue
What happens when you put two of the greatest college basketball programs of all-time together in one of the largest football stadiums in the country? You get The BasketBowl, a non-conference game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Michigan State Spartans held at Ford Field in Detroit. UK would come away victorious, as Gerald Fitch led the way with 23 points in the 79-74 victory over the Spartans.
No. 6 - Rupp Arena And Kentucky's Largest Home Court Advantage
The Player: Rajon Rondo
The Sneaker: Nike Zoom LeBron III
With a capacity of 23,500, UK's Rupp Arena is the nation's largest basketball-only arena. One person who called Rupp home was Rajon Rondo, who spurned his hometown Louisville Cardinals from Big Blue. Rondo set a team record as a freshman with the most steals in single-season with 87.
Sidenote: Yes, I know that this photo isn't of Rondo in Rupp but....I mean good grief. Do you see the photo? How dope is that!
No. 5 - The Three Point Streak Continues
The Player: Darius Miller
The Sneaker: Nike Huarache Free Basketball
One key factor in the success of the Kentucky Wildcats has always been in exploiting the three-point line with a long line of talented shooters. From Jeff Padgett to Tony Delk to Tayshaun Prince to homegrown talent Darius Miller, who added 175 made threes from long range during his time at Lexington. Kentucky has made a 3-point basket in 854 consecutive games (3rd-most all time) through February 2013.
No. 4 - John Wall Dougies His Way Into Our Hearts
The Player: John Wall
The Sneaker: Nike Hyperize Supreme
When John Calipari took over the head coaching job in Kentucky, he hauled in one of the most impressive recruiting classes anybody had seen since the days of Michigan and the Fab Five. The prize catch for Coach Cal was a North Carolina kid named John Wall, who during Midnight Madness proceeded to hit one of the finest Dougie sessions known to man.
No. 3 - Kentucky Sends Five Players Into The First Round Of The 2010 NBA Draft
The Player: Demarcus Cousins
The Sneaker: Nike Blue Chip II TB
John Calipari's 2010 Wildcats was a loaded bunch that showcased the talents of four fabulous freshman and a senior to boot. This particular UK bunch set a record by having one school send five players into the NBA Draft in the first round. These players were: John Wall (1st selection), DeMarcus Cousins (5th), Patrick Patterson (14th), Eric Bledsoe (18th), and Daniel Orton (29th).
No. 2 - The Cardiac Cats Finally Gets John Calipari Elusive First Championship
The Player: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
The Sneaker: Nike LeBron 9 Kentucky
In Coach Calipari's third season on the job the former UMass head coach would put on his finest coaching performance to date. With three talented freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, UK would go on to win a NCAA-record 38 games and win the NCAA Championship in convincing fashion. Led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Wildcats won their six tournament games by an average of 10 points per game and they never trailed in the second half.
No. 1 - Kentucky Sets A NBA Record With Six Players Drafted In One Year
The Player: Anthony Davis
The Sneaker: Air Jordan X
This Kentucky team had a record six players drafted in the 2012 NBA Draft, including the first time two teammates have been chosen with the first two picks: Anthony Davis (1st overall), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd), Terrence Jones (18th), Marquis Teague (29th), Doron Lamb (42nd) and Darius Miller (46th).