With basketball season nearly upon us, everyone is talking about our new coach and what he is going to bring to (or should I say bring back to) Kentucky basketball. Excitement is at an all time high. Rumors and speculation are running wild.
The coach himself, however, cautions that we need to keep in mind that we have a young team full of new players who have to learn a whole new system of basketball and things will be shaky at the start. I contend, however, that the learning curve doesn’t just apply to the players (and the fans) as they learn the dribble drive offense, but to the coach as well. There is nothing quite like Kentucky basketball and it can take an outsider a little while to learn to ropes.
Over the years I’ve had the task of trying to explain what Kentucky basketball is and what it means to several people. What I’ve found is that UK basketball is one of those things that defies description.
Sure, you can list the stats--7 NCAA Championships, 13 Final Fours, 48 Tournament appearances, 43 SEC regular season titles, 25 SEC tournament Championships, 1988 games won--but there is so much more to it than the numbers.
It’s about the love that the people of Kentucky have for their team. It’s about the pride we feel when we watch them play. It’s about the heart ache we feel when they lose and the glee we feel when they win. It’s about people who pass season tickets down to their grandchildren and drive 3 hours both ways for every home game.
It’s about the people who show up for every game and those that never see them play. The ones who fly to Maui and Alaska for pre-season Invitationals. The people who throw game day parties to watch on HD TVs, those that watch in bars with 300 of their closest friends, and those that spent years crouching around radios to listen to Caywood.
It’s about kids that grow up playing ball in driveways and backyards, on courts made of dirt, concrete, shingles, and grass with backboards tacked to the sides of houses and barns and stuck up on light poles. It’s about kids who take thousands of last second shots to beat teams like Louisville, Duke, and Florida. Kids who grow up idolizing people like Macy, Issel, Givens, Delk, Mashburn, Rondo, and Patterson.
How do you put all of that into words? What can you say that encapsulates everything that this team is to everyone? You can’t. You can’t possibly understand Kentucky basketball unless you have lived Kentucky basketball.
But I would like to try. I would like to try and explain what Kentucky basketball is, at least to me. So, what I’m going to do is, in a series of posts, try to highlight different aspects of my relationship with the Wildcats. It may not work, but hey, why not at least play the game?