Well, we're here to tell you. It was a dream!! Tam and I got the cherished and much valued opportunity to attend the UK Alumni Charity Basketball game last Friday night at Rupp Arena as members of the press. Yep. Believe, it or not, we did. The University graciously gave KyTasteBuds two press passes to sit among other fine journalists on "press row" to blog about the exciting activities and athletes of this philanthropic night. The UK Alumni Charity Event is an annual event where former UK players compete with one another for the purpose of raising funds for The Calipari Foundation and other charities while at the same time exciting BBN fans from all over this great state with their impressive b-ball skills. And this year, they added a bonus game with Legends from the Blue Nation past!
So with all that greatness, where do I even start? How 'bout the beginning. Tam and I arrived at 5:00 sharp (two hours before the games started) because we wanted to get good "press row" seats. Since this was not a regulation game, press row was first come, first serve and we wanted to beat the crowd and ensure the best spots. So right on time, we entered the "backstage" doors and headed straight through security where our purses were checked and bodies scanned through an airport-style metal detector. And just so you know, no problems here! I am glad we keep our players safe.
Next, it was time to collect our press passes. It's funny when you walk into an environment where you have no idea where you are going. It's like you expect everyone to pay attention to you and say, "This way, Madame". But instead, you just pretend you know what you are doing and follow the cool crowd. Which led us to a table where we received these!
Talk about official! (Btw, I've "accidentally" worn my pass to Wal-Mart at least 5 times since. Oops!)
Moving on, we made our way up to press row after navigating several hallways and a manned elevator. We'd tell you which floor but that's top secret stuff. We found our way to the media section after walking through a press lounge complete with free popcorn and drinks, and a note to self - "we're coming back to this area, right after we snag those seats"! Once selected, we looked around and took it all in. O-M-G! Just 5 months ago, I'm sitting on my couch watching the CATS in the NCAA tournament and now I am sitting on press row with my bff, getting ready to blog about blue royalty! H-O-L-Y C-O-W, what a difference a few months can make!
We looked around and noticed the "official" reporters armed with $1000 cameras and "ready-to-write" computerware and here we sat with old school note pad and i-Phones. Even though we looked liked amateurs, we convinced ourselves we better take advantage of this great moment and hit the floor to capture some pics during warm-ups! And that's just what we did. From Heshimu Evans, to Kenny "Sky" Walker, to the legendary Kyle Macy, we snapped away, walking from corner to corner, basket to basket, sideline to sideline. Here are a few players we hung out with, um... I mean saw.
(Click to enlarge)
With about 150 pics on my phone, we headed back to the press box to watch the Legends take the court. Now, before I go farther, I must interject a side story. Tam and I received two VIP tickets to this event minutes before the game and we had a decision to make. Do we keep our VIP tickets which provided full-floor access plus hospitality honors or do we stay in press row? Now anyone, under normal circumstances, would jump at the opportunity to receive VIP passes and this was a hard decision to make because honestly the seats were much better in the VIP section. But frankly, there was no way anyone could rip those press lanyards off of our necks that night. Nope, not happening. So instead, we opted to go "KyTasteBuds it" and show a little #KentuckyKindness. In the spirit of UK giving, we headed up to the nosebleed section and found two lucky fans to offer the tickets. Dad, Jason, and son, Nolte, were just the right candidates, and let me just say Nolte's reaction made our night. He was so super excited that it made us all the more thrilled as we watched the fellas almost run down to the floor with their VIP tickets. We wish we could do that every game!
With love in the air, we were back in our seats as it was game time and we were ready. The Legends were introduced and the players were as follows:
Coach: Chip Rupp
Coach: Joe B. Hall
What a lineup! As the players took the court, we watched in awe, trying to soak it all in. Our first approach was to keep track of the stats. As press members you receive a roster at check-in along with a stats sheet to help you tally the points by player along with assists, rebounds and other great facts. While Tam handled this task efficiently, I snapped additional pics and began Tweeting and Instagramming about it all in real time 'cause, after all, isn't this what reporters do? But it became clear about halfway through the game that we weren't very good at it. Tam and I, instead of talking about minute- to-minute plays, found ourselves noticing other things like, wow, that Prickett has grown up to be a nice looking man, or isn't that Jarrod Polson just a sweetheart, or Jon Hood - I didn't know he could dunk like that! So as we tried to be press-like, we noticed we were more fan-like and that was where our approach changed. We decided for the next game we would take "official stats" from a KyTasteBuds perspective because that's just how we roll.
So at intermission, as the Alumnis made their way to the floor for warm-up, we grabbed some of that free popcorn and began the transformation from short-time fact reporter back to KyTasteBuds reporter, and this is where the story gets fun. First, we'll start off with the popcorn. Tam, our expert foodie, made note that the popcorn was too salty, yet she managed to eat every kernel. Funny how that works. Me, on the other hand, had no problem with the extra salt. Isn't that why you get popcorn? Just saying. Next, we moved to pepperoni pizza and bbq sandwich, and let me just say, we were not disappointed. Pleasantly, the eats were delicious and the customer service quite good. Kudos to Rupp's stadium food. It was delicious!
With bellies full, we were ready for the next game which started with darkness, flashing lights and blue lasers. Wow, how I love that!!! The music blared, the crowd of 12, 754 cheered, and you could feel your adrenaline kick in. Suddenly, the overhead jumbotron video appeared, showcasing some of the finest moments in UK history as each player was called. I couldn't help but feel a tremendous amount of love and pride. When Boogie came on, I found myself thinking, show that "Call me" clip! That's my fav! And when the image of blood trickling down Ulis's face emerged on the big screen, I thought for sure the house would explode! Someone should be paid millions for that shot! Fireworks blasted, hands waved in the air and fans hooped and hollered! I got chills, I felt myself grinning ear to ear, and honestly, there were moments it brought tears to my eyes. (Ok, I know I am a girl, but c'mon!) Don't you just love the CATS!!!!! It's like watching a montage video at a family reunion. It's Big Blue Nation at its finest!
And by finest, this is what I mean! Look who arrived to the show!
DeMarcus Cousins Terrence Jones Alex Poythress Tyler Ulis Darius Miller Ramel Bradley Mychal Mulder Erik Daniels Derek Anderson Joe Crawford Karl Anthony-Towns Trey Lyles Rajon Rondo Eric Bledsoe Jamal Murray Tony Delk Rex Chapman Keith Bogans Jamaal Magloire
Now really, I just don't think it gets much better than that!! What a freakin' roster! Love this family for sure!
With the intro out of the way, the game began and like I mentioned before, Tam and I began reporting KyTasteBuds style. Yes we watched the dunks, yes we saw the threes, yes we admired the breakaways, but you can see those stats anywhere. There is only one place you can see our kind of facts! Yes, KyTasteBuds knows "What's good" and not just 'cause that's our tagline!!
These are the highlights:
1. Tyler Ulis - Loudest Crowd Cheer: Fans just can't get enough of Tyler. Frankly, I can't either. He is my hero. Always and forever.
2. Keith Bogans & Eric Bledsoe - Best Smile: This was a tie. Tam liked Keith and I liked Eric. They honestly could win games just on their smiles alone! At the very least do some commercials for Colgate or Crest.
3. DeMarcus Cousins - Hardest Foul (or should we say fouls): I know this is a shocker but sometimes Cousins gets a little rough. However, we all know Boogie is just a giant teddy bear in disguise. Am I right?
4. Alex Poythress - Wore it Best: Alex's athletic perfectionism and class-act looks qualify him for the pages of GQ. How about we make that happen!
5. Terrence Jones - Best 360 Dunk: Terrence has got that jump and spin down...or should I say up! Love to see that swagger in Jones. Can I get an amen?
6. Rex Chapman - Best Hug: Now we all know Rex has got the three down and we saw it demonstrated at the Alumni game, but who knew he expanded his defense repertoire to include hugging players during the game? Some call it holding, but we clearly saw hugging.
7. Erik Daniels - Best Surprise Interview: Poised, articulate, gracious... that was Erik. Loved his post game comments and his continued love for Kentucky, especially given his Lexington roots! Representin' like a champ!
8. Derek Anderson - Most Beautiful Wife: Yes, Derek played a great game as expected, but man, have you seen his wife? Gorg-eous!! I mean stunning. Way to go Derek! Moves on and off the court, I see.
9. Tony Delk - Best Memory Relived: Tony hitting the corner threes takes me back to my fav UK moments. Man, he's still got it. It never gets old watching him hit those treys. Oh and btw, he was a close runner up to the Best Smile Award.
10. Jamaal Maglore - Best Fast Break Lay Up: There is nothing like watching a 6' 11" man make a fast break to the basket and lay it in. I will tell you, that is not as easy as they make it look. Just watch 5' 9" Tam try to make a basic layup during our basketball challenge. See what I mean?
11. Karl Anthony-Towns - Best Shoes: Whether you agree or disagree with Karl's stance, I love that he is a man of conviction. From his Rookie of the Year speech to his post-game interview, Karl is a well-spoken man of substance. We vote Karl for President!
12. Trey Lyles - Most Charismatic: Ever watch Trey work a room? We have. This guy has the charm. No wonder he's Karl's fav bro.
13. Darius Miller - Best Team Player: Some things never change. Darius may be known as one of the best sixth man ever, but I will always place him number 1 on any list. Love him! Darius, you are the bomb! If I had a mic, I'd drop it.
So BBN, there you have it. KyTasteBuds stats! If you are one of those fans that like the nitty gritty official numbers, you can check them out here. We got you covered.
At the conclusion of the game, we got the opportunity to sit in on the post-game interviews. We could ask the players any question we wanted, but we froze. Just like a popsicle. We sat back and listened and for anyone who knows me, that's no easy feat. But I was mesmerized. It was just that awesome. Trust me, we took it all in, we relished it and we thanked our lucky stars. As we walked away that night, we never felt more love for UK sports. Proud to Bleed Blue, proud of our players not only for their basketball heroics but also for their commitment to Kentucky and giving back even well after their b-ball careers are over. UK raised funds for the charities below with combined sales from the UK Alumni Charity and the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience. Take a gander. Can you believe that? Man, BBN, UK rocks! Now, if that is not #KentuckyKindness, I don't know what is.
4 Paws for Ability – $50,000
Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky – $15,000
Connecticut Burn Care Foundation – $10,000
EverFi – $100,000
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – $30,000
Kids2Camp – $75,000
KidzFirst – $100,000
Lexington Humane Society – $25,000
Miracle League of Wilmington – $50,000
One Parent Scholar House – $50,000
Samaritan’s Feet – $100,000
Score International – $25,000
Sports Reach – $25,000
St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital – $110,000
Team Focus – $50,000
Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County – $50,000
American Red Cross Bluegrass Chapter – $150,000
So in summary, I would like to say, it's clear we are the nation's best basketball program, but that is not all we are. We are about brotherhood, giving, education and pride. Thank you to the University of Kentucky for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! We love you! Absolutely adore you.
And PS: Anytime you need us to be that "Y" in the halftime show, just give us a shout! We are there for you!