Sunday, October 17, 2010

UK-Associated Celebs

Ever since Coach Cal rolled into town, the University of Kentucky basketball squad has extensively added to its celebrity rolodex. Whether it's the fact that he's simply reignited the dormant part of the fan base or he just brought along a sizable bandwagon behind him, a lot of people have suddenly claimed UK as their own. I wanted to take some time to highlight those people.

1. Ashley Judd - She wins out because she's been the vocal celeb endorsement since day one. She was a French major at UK and found time to collect minors in anthropology, art history, theater, and women's studies. Well crap. And she's been hitting up basketball games ever since (whenever she could fit 'em in between filming Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy and getting her masters degree at Harvard and being a Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS and little stuff like that. Even though there's been intrapersonal fan squabbles amongst the mostly conservative fan base and her outspoken liberal support, she's still majorly beloved for the fact that she's always and will always claim UK as her home. Half the restaurants in Lexington have her risque hockey poster hanging on their walls, so I think pretty much all is forgiven when you're an attractive woman who wears nothing but a jersey in support for one of your college's obscure sports clubs. And she killed it with The Rock in that Tooth Fairy movie last (... which I haven't seen).

2. Drake - Canada's half-Jewish rapper son spent every free moment in his April 27, 2010 Memorial Coliseum concert shouting out Lexington as his "second home". It must be true then, right? Hip hop's newest poster child, between his So Far Gone mixtape and Thank Me Later album, made sure to be the head coach opposite Tayshaun Prince at 2009's Big Blue Madness and then attend four additional contests, including the Wake Forest NCAA tournament game, throughout the year. He started his relationship with the ball club through a chance hook-up with John Calipari through their mutual friend LeBron James. Yeah, that LeBron James. In the aforementioned concert, Drake brought all of Coach Cal, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, Mark Krebs, and even former star Ramel Bradley out as "his family" for his performance of "I'm Goin' In". This relationship made its rounds on MTV and every major newspaper publication in the world. One of the world's biggest rap stars with the world's greatest basketball university? That's a big deal.

3. LeBron James - I'm pretty sure Coach and LBJ are simply BFFs. They meet on recruiting trips, summer camps, facility visits, playoff games, and one can only assume for $100 million buy-in poker nights switching back and forth between Jay-Z and William Wesley's houses. Once The King made his way to Lexington for the summer to hang out with the newly assembled ball club and tour the Joe Craft Center before they ever even had an official scrimmage, the "LeBron Watch" was on. He was supposed to make it for Big blue Madness ... but he missed it. And this isn't openly known, but I dead serious know for sure that it's because he stayed too late at a crazy Jay-Z party off on some tropical island the night before. Quote me. And then LeBron was supposed to make it for the big North Carolina game ... but he missed it. That one was during the regular season of the NBA, though, so it's a little more understandable. There were a few more false starts, but James finally made his way to Rupp Arena's front row for a publicity shoot during our Vanderbilt game, which completely (non)coincidentally coincided with the debut of the basketball team's official new kicks, the custom blue Air Max LeBron VIIs. I'm sure he didn't even know. Though Cal didn't quite leave to any random team that LeBron was randomly gonna sign with, they're insanely close and that sense of family extended down to Wall, too. I have a guess who the second-most called person on Wall's cell phone is after his mom. Drake's prolly third.

4. Magic Johnson - We'll pretend this one was strictly about basketball even though it wasn't. He was Kentucky that afternoon supporting a bill raising the HS dropout age from 16 to 18 in the Commonwealth and came to our home game against South Carolina as Governor Steve Beshear's guest. Magic's history of collegiate run-ins with UK is what makes this visit so intriguing. In his freshman year at Michigan State in 1978, the Spartans lost to UK (the eventual champions) in the Elite 8. What makes that sting even further is that just a month later, Magic was relegated to second string status to those same UK players on a team coached by Joe B. Hall in the amateur World Invitational Tournament. In Magic and Larry Bird's book When the Game was Ours, both speak very scathingly about Hall's neglect of reaching out to them and their lack of playing time whatsoever during that summer tournament. But that just shows you Magic's love of the game and maturity level at this point in his life. He spoke glowingly of John Wall after this game as "the best player in the country."

5. Mike Tomlin & Ben Roethlisberger - Even though the Cincinnati Bengals hold the hearts of the majority of locals, Calipari's Pittsburgh roots have brought around a friendship with that particular faction in the NFL. Tomlin may have been upstaged by Ashley Judd at the Georgia game and Big Ben may have been upstaged by Magic at the South Carolina game, but they still let their friendship to our Coach be known. And the best part? Both guys were halfway cheered and openly booed when they made it onto the Jumbotron. Big Ben may be the one guy moreso than LeBron that Kentucky may want to distance themselves from in the public's eye ... but oh well. Americans forgive everybody who's slightly famous, so it'll all be good. With Cal's recent visit to Bengals training camp, maybe he'll pull Ochocinco and other more locally favored footballers this upcoming year.

6. Josh Hopkins - Though I've seen a single YouTube clip of it, Hopkins stars in the ABC sitcom Cougar Town. He's a career TV film, short film, and guest starring actor who's finally been given his major break on the Courtney Cox-led major network show as a major character. He was born in Lexington and is the son of a former Kentucky Congressman. He's most famous for actually incorporating the "John Wall Dance" into an episode of Cougar Town, the aforementioned YouTube clip. And then he took it a step further and got a picture out in the world of Cox doing the signature arm move as well. But his highest form of UK fandom came when he followed Kyle Wiltjer, one of our 2011 recruits, to a high school Elite 24 game "just in case" he committed to UK that day at the event. Kinda creepy. Kinda awesome. Either way, the guy's a rising star who's got local roots, which makes him a big deal. I'll never watch the current show he's on, but I'll still vaguely care about him anyway.

7. Irv Gotti - Who even knew this guy was still alive? The guy who composed "Can I Get a ... **** You?" The guy who started Murder Inc. The guy who originally shoved Ja Rule, Ashanti, and Lloyd down commercial radio's throats. The Hollis, Queens producer donned his John Wall jersey and sat front row for College Gameday against Tennessee. Even though Irv got arrested and such on crack-related money laundering ... it's kinda cool that he's close with assistant coach Orlando Antigua, right? That's some heavy street cred. Sure, he hasn't made a hit in years, but when I walked out of the Wildcat Lodge that morning to see one of the biggest hip hop presences from the '90s cheesing like a mug while watching Coach Robic lecture the guys over some game tape, it felt pretty cool. Then he gave me a head nod. I'm pretty sure that means that he wanted to sign me.

8. Charles Barkley - It's pretty crazy, but Chuck (a very proud Auburn alum) decided not to travel a little ways over for the final game in his alma mater's ancient arena, the very one he spent his playing days in bulldozing over SEC competition in the early '80s. Instead, he visited Athens to see the Kentucky Wildcats. Undeterred by all of his DUIs and recurring mishaps, I was enlightened to the fact that he showed up to the game plastered. Even though he kinda talked us down after the game as still being a step behind Kansas and Syracuse, you can tell he was still there to witness the John Wall show. And I'll choose to assume that his later disparaging remarks about Cousins' readiness for the pro level were due to the same ethanol-related influence. But Charles did take the time to meet and take a picture with Coach in the tunnel, so all's forgiven.

9. Big Tigger - I just remember the guy from being the host of 106 & Park back when I used to watch BET for anything other than their award show cyphers. What he's known for now is being the Washington Wizards' resident in-game DJ. Hmmm ... now what is the connection between the University of Kentucky and the Wiz? Just a minute ago, Big Tigg hosted John Wall's personal professional Midnight Madness in the District of Columbia. So since Wall couldn't make his way back to Lexington other than by video message this last weekend for our Big Blue Madness, he sent the BET host to us in his place. And, in my professional opinion, he did a pretty great job. "Big Blue Nation" (as he called us a minimum of 75 times for response) approves.

10. The NBA - Kelenna Azubuike, Eric Bledsoe, Keith Bogans, Demarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes, Jamaal Magloire, Jodie Meeks, Nazr Mohammed, Daniel Orton, Patrick Patterson, Tayshaun Prince, Rajon Rondo, and John Wall. Enough said.

... and Free Enes.


  1. Did Tristan call "shotgun" next to Drake again this year?

  2. yeah, tristan automatically has dibbs on whoever the top resident celebrity is at each game


so what did ya think about whatever the heck i wrote?