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UK Basketball: Notable Former Wildcats Win NBA Championship

By Jordan Brown

The NBA season and restart came to a conclusion Sunday evening as the Los Angeles Lakers won game six of the NBA finals to clinch the series. Lebron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers team completed their impressive playoff run defeating the Miami Heat.

In this championship series alone, we saw a lot of play and production from former Kentucky players. Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo all played key roles for their teams during the series. Davis and Rondo for the Lakers, and Herro and Adebayo for the Heat. It was the first NBA finals appearance for three of the four players, who also all played under John Calipari. Rondo is the exception, as he played for Tubby Smith back in his days at Kentucky and won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008. He is the only player in NBA history to win an NBA title with two of the most storied franchises, the Los Angeles Laker and Boston Celtics.

Tyler Herro set records and made history throughout his playoff run and first finals appearance. At the conclusion of the series, Herro has now had the most consecutive playoff games scoring in double figures as a rookie. Herro was also the youngest player to start in an NBA finals game after being inserted into the starting lineup in game two following the injury to key Miami guard Goran Dragic. Just 20 years old, he was slightly younger than Magic Johnson who was previously the youngest player to start in an NBA Finals series. Herro averaged 16 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists throughout this year’s playoffs.

Bam Adebayo struggled with injuries throughout the series but was able to bounce back to help give the underdog Heat a fighting chance. Adebayo suffered a shoulder injury during game one causing him to miss games two and three. He played a key role in the Heats effort to contain Anthony Davis once he returned from injury. Throughout the Heat’s impressive run to the finals as a four seed out of the Eastern Conference, Adebayo averaged a double-double at 17.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Rajon Rondo showed his veteranship and basketball grit during the NBA restart. Sidelined with a hand injury to begin the seeding games in the Orlando Bubble, he still remained engaged almost as a coach to his teammates. He then came back playing as the same Rondo we were accustomed to seeing, averaging 8.9 points, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals throughout the playoffs. Most impressively, even after returning from a hand injury, Rondo shot a career high 40 percent from beyond the three-point line this postseason—clearly earning him the growing nickname “Playoff Rondo.”

After a rough start to his career in New Orleans, It seems like Anthony Davis has finally found a home and a winning culture in Los Angeles. In his first season with the Lakers and Lebron James, he was able to silence the haters by winning the title that he came there to get. Though James ended up earning the finals MVP, Davis was no slouch in this year’s players averaging 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in the 21 playoffs games in the Orlando bubble. Davis seemed relieved after winning the championship and game six as he could finally get the championship burden off his back and pursue his career towards more.

The success of our former Wildcats in the NBA is something to be proud of and is starting to be noticed more and more by basketball fans across the country. In this year’s NBA playoffs, Kentucky players recorded more points than any other college basketball program by far with 2.249. In second was Marquette with only 791. I look forward to seeing numbers and statistics like this continue to grow and separate Kentucky basketball from the rest.

Maya Monk
Maya Monk is currently a student at the University of Kentucky majoring in Broadcast Journalism. She grew up in Lexington after moving from Cleveland, Ohio at a young age. She “bleeds blue” and has always been a fan of Kentucky sports and the strong “Big Blue Nation” fan base. “I’m excited to explore the opportunity of learning more about the journalistic lifestyle of sports coverage, and I am also excited to see how my own media coverage can grow and be shared with the loving Wildcat fans of Kentucky. I feel truly honored. Go Cats!”

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