LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky basketball program has retired 43 jerseys in program history, but unlike in Major League Baseball the numbers on those retired jerseys remain eligible for use.
So we’re having a little fun with the never-ending debate about the best players in program history by looking at the best player to wear each jersey number.
(Note: Historical data about jersey numbers is far from complete. Numbers for some of the earliest players, like Basil Hayden, who had his jersey retired, are not available at all. Others wore multiple numbers in their UK career. But we’re using the database at BigBlueHistory.net and UK’s official list of retired jerseys as the basis for our list.)
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BigBlueHistory.net lists 57 numbers on its list of UK jerseys. Here are our picks for the best player to wear each one.
0 – De’Aaron Fox: All-SEC selection led UK to the Elite Eight in his one season on campus before being selected No. 5 overall in the NBA draft. Beats current Wildcat Quade Green (and New York Knicks forward Enes Kanter, who was ruled ineligible while at UK) for best No. 0.
De’Aaron Fox high fives guard Mychal Mulder in UK’s game vs. Auburn. Jan. 14, 2017.Buy Photo
De’Aaron Fox high fives guard Mychal Mulder in UK’s game vs. Auburn. Jan. 14, 2017. (Photo: Michael Reaves/Special to The Courier Journal)
00 – Tony Delk: Ranks fifth on UK’s career scoring list (1,890 points) and holds the program record for career 3-pointers (283). Won a national championship in 1996.
1 – Darius Miller: The only player in Kentucky history to win Mr. Kentucky Basketball, a state high school title and a national championship at UK finished his career with the UK record for games played (152). Miller edges out first-round draft picks James Young, Devin Booker and Skal Labisseire as the best No. 1 for the Wildcats.
2 – Aaron Harrison: Hit three of the biggest shots in program history with game-winners in the final minute of three straight NCAA Tournament games during a run to 2014 national championship game, then started on a 38-1 team in 2014-15.
3 – Rex Chapman: One of the most difficult picks of any number on this list. Go with Chapman, who scored more 1,000 points in just two years at UK, was a first-round pick and enjoyed a 12-year NBA career or Tyler Ulis, who was named SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American at UK and holds the school’s single-season assists record? We’ll give the edge to Chapman due to his professional career, but just barely. First-round picks Terrence Jones, Nerlens Noel and Bam Adebayo also wore No. 3 at UK.
4 – Kyle Macy: A three-time All-American, the 1980 SEC Player of the Year and a member of the 1978 national championship team, Macy ranks 21st on UK’s career scoring list (1,411). Louisville native Rajon Rondo is UK’s second-best No. 4.
Kyle Macy faces Magic Johnson in an NCAA Tournament game vs. Michigan State.Buy Photo
Kyle Macy faces Magic Johnson in an NCAA Tournament game vs. Michigan State. (Photo: By Paul Schuhmann, The Courier-Journal)
5 – Wayne Turner: UK’s career leader in steals (238) and wins (132) also ranks fourth in career assists (494) and second in games played (151). Played in three straight national title games and won two championships at UK. Travis Ford, Malik Monk and Kevin Knox are among the other No. 5s in UK history.
6 – Cliff Hagan: A two-time consensus first-team All-American, Hagan won a national championship in 1951 and starred on the 25-0 1953-54 team that declined an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
7 – John “Frenchy” DeMoisey: The only No. 7 among UK’s retired jerseys, DeMoisey was a member of UK’s 1933 Helms national champion team and named an All-American in 1934.
8 – Marvin Akers: One of just five No. 8’s in the BigBlueHistory.net database, Akers, a Jeffersonville, Indiana native, was an All-SEC selection in 1941 and 1942.
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9 – Kenneth England: One of six No. 9’s in the BigBlueHistory.net database, England died while serving in Italy in World War II. He scored 154 points in two years at UK before the war and was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star for his service.
10 – Louie Dampier: A 2015 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Dampier named a consensus second-team All-American twice at UK then reached seven ABA All-Star teams in his professional career. Keith Bogans, Dirk Minniefield, Andre Riddick and Archie Goodwin are a few of the other memorable No. 10’s at UK.
University of Kentucky guard Louie Dampier.
University of Kentucky guard Louie Dampier. (Photo: Photo courtesy of the Univeristy of Kentucky. 1964)
11 – John Wall: Sean Woods, a member of “The Unforgettables,” is the only No. 11 to have his jersey retired at UK, but Wall, a 2017 UK Hall of Fame inductee, is only not on that list because he is not eligible yet. He recorded the second-most assists in a single season in his one year at UK before going No. 1 in the 2010 NBA draft.
12 – Ralph Beard: A three-time consensus first-team All-American, Beard won two national titles at UK and gold medal as a member of UK’s famous “Fabulous Five” team. Deron Feldhaus, a member of the Unforgettables, and Karl-Antony Towns, the 2015 NBA draft No. 1 pick, also wore No. 12 at UK.
13 – Nazr Mohammed: A two-time national champion at UK and 1998 All-SEC selection, Mohammed also won an NBA title as part of his 18-season professional career.
14 – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: A key member of UK’s 2012 title team, Kidd-Gilchrist was named a consensus second-team All-American in his one season at UK then went No. 2 in the 2012 NBA draft. Earns the nod for best No. 14 here over 1998 national champion Heshimu Evans and 1,000-point scorer Erik Daniels.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) celebrates after UK’s 2012 Final Four win over Louisville.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) celebrates after UK’s 2012 Final Four win over Louisville. (Photo: Michael Clevenger)
15 – Alex Groza: A three-time All-American, two-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player and the 1949 Helms National Player of the Year, Groza won two national championships (1948, 1949) and a gold medal as a member of UK’s “Fabulous Five” squad. Ed Davender, Jeff Sheppard, DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein also wore No. 15 at UK, but Groza is among the most decorated players in program history.
16 – Lou Tsioropoulos: A member of UK’s 1951 national title team and undefeated 1953-54 team and two NBA champion Boston Celtics squads (1957, 1959), Tsioropoulos later worked as a high school coach and administrator in Louisville
17 – Carey Spicer: Two-time Helms All-American (1929, 1931) does not have a number listed on his official retired UK jersey but is credited as one of six players to wear No. 17 in the BigBlueHistory.net database.
18 – Dale Barnstable: Unlike the UK football program, the No. 18 jersey has rarely featured a star player for the basketball team. Barnstable is the best of the bunch with a third-team All-SEC selection in 1949 and a 1948 national championship.
19 – Jack Tingle: A two-time All-American (1946, 1947) and four-time first-team All-SEC selection, Tingle gets bonus points for working eight years in the photoengraving department at the Courier Journal.
20 – Doron Lamb: Star performance in the 2012 national championship game earns Lamb, a 1,000-point scorer in two years at UK, the edge as best No. 20 over Jim Master, Jimmy Dane Conner and Gayle Rose.
21 – Jack Givens: Bad luck for UK legend Tayshaun Prince to have worn the same number as Givens, who is one of three players in program history to score at least 2,000 points in his career and was a three-time All-American and Helms National Player of the Year for the 1978 title team. Prince, Keith Bogans and Cotton Nash are the three players among UK’s top-10 career scorers not to earn the distinction as best to wear their jersey number here.
Jack Givens drives against Duke in the 1978 NCAA championship game.Buy Photo
Jack Givens drives against Duke in the 1978 NCAA championship game. (Photo: By Keith Williams, The Courier-Journal)
22 – Jerry Bird: The only player to have his No. 22 jersey retired, Bird won two SEC titles at UK and was a member of the 25-0 1953-54 team. Patrick Sparks, Alex Poythress and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all starred in No. 22 in recent years.
23 – Anthony Davis: No. 23 is one of the deepest jersey pools for Kentucky with UK Hall of Famer Cliff Barker joining modern stars Derek Anderson, Jodie Meeks, Jamal Murray and Davis in wearing the jersey, but it’s hard to pick against Davis considering he posted one of the best single seasons in program history in his one season at UK. The consensus 2012 National Player of the Year and NBA draft No. 1 pick was inducted into the UK Hall of Fame earlier this week.
Anthony Davis celebrates after UK’s 2012 Final Four win vs. Louisville.
Anthony Davis celebrates after UK’s 2012 Final Four win vs. Louisville. (Photo: (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))
24 – Jamal Mashburn: One of the best players in program history, Mashburn ranks sixth on Kentucky’s career scoring list. UK Hall of Famer Johnny Cox, Antoine Walker, Kelenna Azubuike and Eric Bledsoe also wore No. 24.
UK coach Rick Pitino shares a light moment with Jamal Mashburn after their 1993 SEC championship win vs. LSU.
UK coach Rick Pitino shares a light moment with Jamal Mashburn after their 1993 SEC championship win vs. LSU. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
25 – Leroy Edwards: One-and-done before it was fashionable, Edwards turned pro after just one varsity season for UK in 1934-35 (NCAA rules prohibited freshmen from playing on varsity teams at the time, so he technically spent two years at UK). Edwards averaged 16.3 points per game for a team that scored 60 points just four times in 21 games to earn Helms National Player of the Year honors.
26 – Ken Rollins: One of just four No. 26’s in the BigBlueHistory.net database, Rollins had his jersey retired after serving as captain for UK’s 1948 “Fabulous Five” national title team.
27 – Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones: Perhaps the best athlete in UK history, Jones is the only former Wildcat to have his jersey retired in basketball and football. He also played for the baseball team. Jones was a three-time All-American in basketball, winning for two national titles (1948 and 1949) and a gold medal as a member of the “Fabulous Five.”
30 – Frank Ramsey: A three-time All-American, Ramsey won a national title (1951) at UK and starred for the 25-0 1953-54 team that declined a NCAA Tournament invitation. He went on to win seven NBA championships with the Boston Celtics. Julius Randle also earned All-American honors wearing No. 30 at UK in more recent history.
31 – Sam Bowie: By the time he became known as the player picked ahead of Michael Jordan in the NBA draft, Bowie was already a UK legend, earning All-American honors twice despite missing two entire seasons in five years in Lexington. Former UK coach Joe B. Hall wore No. 31 in his brief stint as a UK player.
32 – Joe Crawford: Ranked 20th on UK’s career scoring list, Crawford’s collegiate career never quite matched the hype that came when he signed as a McDonald’s All-American recruit, but he averaged 17.9 points per game as a senior to earn All-SEC honors. Edges out 1978 national champion James Lee, 1982 All-SEC guard Derrick Hord and Unforgettable Richie Farmer for best No. 32.
33 – Ron Mercer: A 1997 first-team All-American and member of the 1996 national championship team, Mercer ranks third in program history made field goals in a single season (297).
Ron Mercer puts up a shot high above Minnesota’s Eric Harris.Buy Photo
Ron Mercer puts up a shot high above Minnesota’s Eric Harris. (Photo: The Courier-Journal)
34 – Kenny Walker: A two-time All-American, “Sky” Walker ranks second on Kentucky’s career scoring list (2,080 points) and sixth on the program’s career rebounds list (942). Mike Casey, John Pelphrey and Scott Padgett were other great No. 34’s for UK.
35 – Kevin Grevey: A two-time All-American and two-time Associated Press SEC Player of the year, Grevey ranks seventh on UK’s career scoring list (1,801). Legendary UK administrator C.M. Newton also wore No. 35 as a player.
36 – Read Morgan: The lone No. 36 in the BigBlueHistory.net database, Morgan scored 57 points in two years (1949-1951) at UK then went onto a career as an actor with 142 credits on his IMDB.com resume, including a small role in “Back to the Future.”
37 – Gene Neff: UK’s only No. 37 in the BigBlueHistory.net database scored 25 points in his lone season as a Wildcat in 1951-52.
38 – Bobby Watson: The only No. 38 in the BigBlueHistory.net database, Watson was twice named first-team All-SEC and was named a third-team All-American in 1952.
39 – Darrell Lorance: UK’s only No. 39 scored 29 points in the 1945-46 season before transferring to Missouri.
40 – Larry Conley: A three-time All-SEC selection and member of “Rupp’s Runts,” Conley went on to a prominent career as a sports broadcaster. New Evansville coach Walter McCarty also starred as a No. 40 for UK.
41 – Mark Pope: Current Utah Valley head coach, Pope won a national title in 1996 at UK. Trey Lyles also wore No. 41 for the 38-1 team in 2014-15.
42 – Pat Riley: Won the Associated Press SEC Player of the Year Award and was named an All-American while playing for “Rupp’s Runts” in 1965-66. Riley later became the first person to win a NBA title as a player, assistant coach, head coach and executive.
“Rupp’s Runts” at a movie theater in Tuscaloosa. From left to right: Larry Conley, Thad Jaracz, Pat Riley, Tommy Kron and Louie Dampier.Buy Photo
“Rupp’s Runts” at a movie theater in Tuscaloosa. From left to right: Larry Conley, Thad Jaracz, Pat Riley, Tommy Kron and Louie Dampier. (Photo: By C. Thomas Hardin, The Courier-Journal)
43 – Jared Carter: One of the tallest players in program history, the 7-foot-2 Carter scored 40 points in four years at UK, 37 more than the other two No. 43’s in the BigBlueHistory.net database combined.
44 – Dan Issel: Kentucky’s career leader in points (2,138) and rebounds (1,078), Issel recorded a school-record 64 double-doubles in 83 games. He scored at least 30 points a school-record 31 times and also played for the Kentucky Colonels. Three-time All-American Cotton Nash, who ranks second in career scoring average (22.7) to Issel, also wore No. 44, as did UK Hall of Famers Phil Grawemeyer, Bill Lickert and Chuck Hayes.
Kentucky Colonel Dan Issel drove to the basket against the New York Nets in ABA action at Freedom Hall in Louisville. April 17, 18974Buy Photo
Kentucky Colonel Dan Issel drove to the basket against the New York Nets in ABA action at Freedom Hall in Louisville. April 17, 18974 (Photo: Frank Kimmel/Courier Journal.)
45 – Bob Guyette: A 1975 NBA draft third-round pick, Guyette scored 758 points in his UK career.
50 – Bob Burrow: An All-American in both his seasons on the UK varsity team, Burrow holds the UK records for rebounds per game in a single season (17.7) and rebounds in a single game (34). The only UK No. 50 to have his jersey retired.
51 – Bob Brannum: A 1944 All-American, Brannum had his UK career interrupted for two years to serve in the Army during World War II.
52 – Vernon Hatton: A 1958 All-American, Hatton scored a team-high 30 points in the title game to lead UK to the national championship that year. Hit a halfcourt shot at the end of the first overtime in a three-overtime win over Temple in 1957, the longest game in UK history.
53 – Rick Robey: A two-time All-American, Robey posted a double-double in the 1978 national title game, though that performance was overshadowed by Givens’ 41 points.
54 – Patrick Patterson: Three-time All-SEC selection ranks 13th on UK’s career scoring list (1,564 points), three spots higher than Melvin Turpin (1,509 points), who also wore No. 54 for UK.
55 – Mike Phillips: A three-time All-SEC selection, Phillips was named to the NCAA Tournament All-Regional Team during the 1978 championship run.
66 – Roger Layne: One of three No. 66’s in the BigBlueHistory.net database, Layne scored 30 points in two seasons at UK.
70 – John Brewer: UK’s only No. 70 in the BigBlueHistory.net database. The Louisville native scored 253 points in three seasons from 1954 to 1957.
73 – Dan Chandler: The son of former Kentucky governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler scored 10 points in two seasons at UK. The only No. 73 in the BigBlueHistory.net database.
77 – Bill Spivey: Owner of the highest number of any of UK’s retired jerseys, Spivey was an All-American for the 1951 title team.
88 – Bill Smith: One of two players listed at No. 88 in the BigBlueHistory.net database, Smith scored 33 points in three seasons from 1955 to 1958 at UK.