The Kentucky Wildcats basketball program has produced some of the biggest-name players in NBA history, which should come as no surprise as it’s also the most successful program in the NCAA to date.
Kentucky boasts the most wins and highest winning percentage in collegiate history while they’ve had some of the more notable coaches on the basketball scene over the years, including the likes of Pat Riley, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, and Dwane Casey.
When it comes to players, the Wildcats are responsible for some of the best to ever hit the draft. Let’s take a look at a few of them right below.
Dan Issel was balling out of his mind before the NBA/ABA merger and started in the ABA. Horse, as he was known, is the record holder for games and minutes played as a pro where the Wildcats are concerned.
A formidable force on the offensive end of the floor, Issel helped the Kentucky Colonels rise to prominence ahead of the merger and would go on to star for the Denver Nuggets thereafter.
The Los Angeles Lakers star was the first pick of the 2012 NBA Draft and is currently one of the biggest stars in the NBA. He was already marked for greatness before committing to Kentucky and would lead the team to an SEC Championship in his lone season with the program.
Said campaign saw AD named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, the NCAA leader in blocks, the SEC Player of the Year, Consensus First-team All-American, Consensus National College Player of the Year, and Final Four Most Outstanding Player. The center was also a national champion by the time the curtains came together.
Davis won his first NBA championship in 2020 and, when healthy, is one of the most unplayable stars in the league. But it’s being rumored that he could be traded this year.
Devin Booker has built a reputation as one of the most potent scorers in the league and he’s likely to win at least one championship before his career is over.
Devin is the son of former Missouri point guard Melvin Booker, so he had a great start. And, like AD, he was highly vaunted before joining the Wildcats. He ended up going 13th overall in 2015 after a single season with Kentucky and his Phoenix Suns will be among the teams tipepd to win the title in 2024 after adding Bradley Beal to an offense already boasting Kevin Durant.
Sportsbooks have the Suns as the third favorites to go all the way next season at 13/2, with the Nuggets in front and the Boston Celtics behind in second place. All these Kentucky players have helped build a big Kentucky fan base for the NBA, and many of them follow more than just one team. With the regulation of sports wagering in the state, there’s also many Kentucky Sportsbook promos available for this next season.
Rajon Rondo made his mark in the NBA as a 21st overall pick. He was a key piece for the Boston Celtics when they won their first title in 22 years in 2008 and was also instrumental for the Lakers when they won one in the bubble in 2020.
The former point guard was born and raised in Lexington Kentucky and chose to play for the Wildcats after attending Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He spent two seasons with the program before opting for the draft and is now one of a handful of Wildcats to win multiple NBA championships.
Kentucky is also known for sending the most freshmen to the NBA and John Wall was one of them. Though the guard’s college career was marred by controversy, including tampering allegations, he ended up going first overall in 2020.
Unfortunately for Wall, injuries have made it so he is yet to realize his full potential. And, at 32, he is currently without a team. But he is deserving of a spot on any list about Kentucky stars who made it to the pros.
Tayshaun Prince played four full seasons with Kentucky before going pro and it appears it was well worth it.
The former Detroit Pistons star was named SEC Tournament MVP and SEC Player of the Year at the end of his junior season in 2001 and started making a name for himself in college.
He would play 11 seasons in Detroit and would help the team win a championship in 2004 as they took down a Lakers side featuring both Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal after quite possibly securing a Finals spot for his team with a historic block. Prince would go on to win a gold medal with the United States in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
He now works as an executive for the Memphis Grizzlies.