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Anderson's documentary offers chance to 'relive' magical '96 season

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Derek Anderson could have won an NBA title, an MVP trophy and an Olympic gold medal and it still may not have mattered in this state.

When you're Kentucky blue once -- whether it's for two years, four years or 40, or whether you've scored two points or 2,000 -- you're Kentucky forever.

Anderson knew that to an extent when he left UK after his senior season, one year removed from a national championship in 1996. But it took a long and successful NBA career for Anderson to fully appreciate the passion and dedication of the Kentucky fan base.

"I was the first guy to wear Jordan shoes on his first deal, got drafted in the lottery, the first guy from Louisville, all those things, and it never matched up to being at Kentucky," Anderson said. "To me it's still amazing because you have that type of career, 11 years in the NBA, and you would think that somebody would remember you for one of those years more than Kentucky."

Not after what Anderson and his 1995-96 team, "The Untouchables" did nearly 14 years ago. For all that mattered to the fans, Anderson and the eventual stockade of NBA draftees could have flamed out in the Association. The fans still would have adored them for one of the most amazing runs in college basketball history.

Just last week Anderson boarded a plane out of the state of Kentucky and a fan brought up his two years in Lexington, not his decade-plus professional career. Moments like that got Anderson to thinking: If the championship and that team meant to such much to him, his teammates and the state, why not relive the experience?

After a couple of conversations with his former teammates, including current UK assistant director of basketball operations Tony Delk, Anderson decided to recreate the dream season with an all-access look back at "The Untouchables" with a self-produced documentary on one of the greatest teams in college basketball history. The documentary is titled, "The Untouchables: The Greatest Team Ever."

"It's still amazing that people remember us from that team," Anderson said. "When you talk and relive it, we didn't realize how good we were. We knew we were good. We won a championship and did what we were supposed to do. But our goal after that was to win a championship. When we talked about it we were just like let's relive it and let people see how good we were.

"We decided it would be best for us to leave a legacy, not just to be a part of something but to be remembered as something."  

Fans will have a chance to relive and remember just how good that team was with a blue carpet screening Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom in Lexington. Tickets for the 45-minuite preview are $150 and include one plated dinner, desert, unlimited beverages, official screening program and gift bag. The event will feature members of the 1996 team, former Wildcats, current Wildcats, alumni and more. Tickets can be purchased at the documentary's official Web site. 
 
What will likely stand out during the interviews and reflections with former players and coaches, all of which were conducted by Anderson, is a super-talented team that put its egos aside and came together on the court for the greater goal of a championship.

Despite having nine future NBA players, including six first-round picks, the players were able to co-exist with one another and put together one of the most historic runs in NCAA history. UK, with a star-studded lineup that featured the likes of Anderson, Delk, Ron Mercer, Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty and more, won 27 games in a row, including a Southeastern Conference record 16-0 in league play, en route to the 1996 title.

anderson_derek1.jpg"Most coaches would have to baby guys and not play some guys," Anderson said. "The coaches made us practice every day to where you were fighting just to play so you can go to the NBA. So if you were a starter and you thought you were going to start all year, (Rick Pitino) would start somebody else and make you get your job back. It almost scared us into playing harder because we were so talented. That's what a great coach does."

The fact that the documentary coincides with Kentucky's return to the national stage is merely a coincidence, Anderson said, but he made no hesitation about stating his belief that the 1996 team was the greatest to ever take the court.

ESPN.com recently ranked the '96 team No. 2 behind one of John Wooden's great UCLA teams in its rankings of the best college basketball teams of all time.

"When was the last time a team went to the championship game three years in a row?" Anderson said. "You can't remember it and you won't. That's why it was so special for us. We had five NBA players starting. Then the other four guys were coming in to play. Once we figured it, out it was easy for us to win."

All it took was an early season loss to Massachusetts to figure it out. After that, the Cats were out for revenge. UK went on to win 27 straight games before losing to Mississippi State in the SEC championship. It hardly mattered as the Cats cut down the national title nets a month later.

"We didn't want to just win; we wanted to beat you to death," said Anderson, whose team won by an average of 24.3 points per game. "Whoever we were playing we wanted to embarrass them and show them how good we were."

Anderson said they didn't realize at the time what they were doing or how special they were.

"We were so focused on just one thing, (winning the championship)," Anderson said. "We didn't sway of the NBA or sway of leaving a legacy. Coach always told us to live in the precious present which every moment counts today and nothing else matters."

Maybe, but they've left a legacy for which they will always matter. Greatest ever? That's up for debate. But on Friday, fans will have a chance to relive it and judge for themselves. 

For more information, visit the Official Web site at untouchablesofkentucky.com.

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1 Comment

I remember it well. still have the shirt. where were you on that winning final day? I was sitting in the sports book at binions horseshoe yelling really loud. go cats.

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  • dee deangelo: I remember it well. still have the shirt. where were you on that winning final day? I was sitting in read more