‘Family’ the Theme of the Night at Big Blue Madness

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has always run a players-first program at Kentucky. At Big Blue Madness on Friday it was all about family.

In the weeks leading up to Big Blue Madness, UK Athletics and Coach Cal invited every single former player in Kentucky basketball’s illustrious history to come back to Rupp Arena to celebrate the special evening with them.

“The last seven years has brought us a national championship in 2012, four Final Fours, a bunch of SEC championships, and more wins than any other program,” Coach Cal began. “You know why? We’ve had some unbelievable players. Players who have gone on from here to do some remarkable things. Who better to talk to this team and future Wildcats than them?”

Videos of encouragement and well wishes were sent in by various NBA Wildcats, including, among others, Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Archie Goodwin, Tyler Ulis, Kyle Wiltjer, Tayshaun Prince, Ron Mercer, Aaron Harrison, Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress.

Following the video, DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and John Wall joined Coach Cal on stage to stay hello again to their adoring fans.

Coach Cal wasn’t done there.

He then asked some 70 former Wildcats spanning more than half a century to join him on stage as he talked about the Kentucky program as the gold standard in the sport.

This is family,” Calipari said as the players gathered behind him. “(It’s) not just words. Our former stars and our current players, the Big Blue Nation, make up one big family that will continue to be the gold standard of our sport. … This is where you make the impossible, possible. We learn to chase our dreams together until they’re all achieved.”

The definition of the start of the college basketball season can be vague. Is it the first day of practice? Is it the first game of the regular season?

Ultimately, that’s in eye of the beholder. What isn’t up for debate is that Big Blue Madness for the University of Kentucky is a celebration that college basketball is finally back in the Bluegrass.

There were fancy lights, tons of smiles and cheers, plenty of pyrotechnics, and a whole lot of basketball at Rupp Arena on Friday night in front of thousands of basketball-starved fans overwhelmed with excitement to see their Wildcats take the floor.

The Wildcats later took the floor for a scrimmage that pitted the “veterans” against the freshmen. The up-and-down highlight show of a game was filled with numerous dunks from Bam Adebayo, including a windmill dunk in transition.

The quality of the basketball was a side note. What was more important was that there was, in fact, basketball.

Friday night was another celebration of the return of the Bluegrass’ favorite pastime, and what the fans hope is another season to remember.

“Our latest journey together begins tonight,” Calipari said in closing. “This season, our 114th season, marks the next step for these 14 players all striving for team greatness as they also chase each of their lifelong dreams. This, my friends, is what family is all about.”