Who knew a global pandemic and a “bubble” with no fans would translate into some of the best NBA basketball. The bubble has everything a real basketball fan lives for like buzzer beaters, game sevens, underdogs, upsets, defense, and team basketball. One of the coolest things about this year’s playoffs is it’s packed with former Kentucky Wildcats.
After one game into the conference finals, former Kentucky Wildcat players are making the University of Kentucky proud. They're blowing the stats out of the water with five ex-players still in the game.
Technically, Boston’s Enes Kanter could be considered a former Wildcat bringing the total to six former players. Some are disputing his status since he never ‘technically’ played a game at Kentucky due to ineligibility. During his year at UK, he practiced with the team and his GPA factored into the team’s average. So, it’s up for debate.
Aside from Kanter, former Wildcat players are ‘showing up’ for the university and dominating the game for their current professional teams.
The Los Angeles Lakers are favored to win the entire tournament. The Lakers rule with 35 year-old-player LeBron James, considered the greatest player in the game today. LeBron has a sidekick this year that’s second to none. Anthony Davis, the 2012 NCAA champion and one of the best to ever play the game at UK under Kentucky Wildcat Coach John Calipari. The ‘two-headed monster,’ James and Davis, are the reason the Lakers are favored to take it all. Included in the Wildcat/Laker line-up is Rajon Rondo. Rondo played under Coach Tuby Smith.
Jamal Murray is another former Wildcat under Head Coach Calipari. The 6’4 NBA player is a Denver Nugget. Murray just dropped 40 points in a game seven win against the LA Clippers. The Clippers were right up there with the Lakers in being favored to win the championship. No one saw Denver coming though. The Nuggets and Lakers will meet this weekend in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009.
The Miami Heat have two former Wildcats, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. I have to say, this team is my favorite. Both players catapulted their team to victory with late game clutch plays. Herro is the ‘go to’ guy for late three pointers.
Adebayo is an outstanding defensive player. One of the best defensive plays ever made in the NBA Playoffs happened Tuesday night. The Heat worked their way back into the game over the favored Celtics and forced an overtime. Towards the end of the game, Heat superstar Jimmy Butler scored an impressive basket giving Miami a two-point lead. The Celtics still had enough time remaining to tie or take the lead.
This was one of those defining moments in the NBA playoffs when great players become immortal. Boston puts the ball in the hands of their young, elite player, Jason Tatum. He drives to the basket and goes up for what should be a hard slam dunk, but then...BAM! No literally, Bam Adebayo blocks his dunk at the rim in the most amazing play.
“Bam Adebayo’s block on Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt was the best defensive play I’ve seen ever in the playoffs!!!!” tweeted NBA great, Magic Johnson. Being a big heat fan, I was on the edge of my seat during those final minutes. Watching former Kentucky players make key plays was awesome. When Adebayo blocked that dunk I screamed and woke our baby up - the wife wasn’t too happy (I’m a new dad, by the way). The Celtics and Heat are setting the tournament up for quite the entertaining series.
Here’s a crazy stat. Not only is a Kentucky player guaranteed to win an NBA title, but the player was coached by Calipari. As it goes, great players were drafted by flailing teams. Some players have been traded while others had teams built around them. And now, it’s paying off.
Game two of the Eastern Conference finals begins tonight at 6 pm CST. Miami currently leads 1 - 0. Game one between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets is at 8 pm CST this Friday on TNT. Go Heat and best of luck to all the former Wildcats!