This day every year reminds me just how much success John Calipari has found in Lexington during his tenure. Even with a 9-16 season, and a 2013 NIT appearance, the heights of his success still can't seem to be topped.
TWENTY SEVEN different players are on NBA opening-day rosters (including two-way and inactive players), more than any other college program in the country. Duke is the only other school that comes close with 21. Seventeen franchises have two or more on their roster. That's 56.67% of the entire NBA.
The New York Knicks have 4 former Cats, with Kevin Knox II (2018), Nerlens Noel (2013), Immanuel Quickley (2019-20) and Julius Randle (2014). IF you want to go even further, Derrick Rose is also on the Knicks, who John Calipari coached but just not at Kentucky (Memphis). Lastly, they also have former UK Assistant, Kenny Payne, on their staff.
The Los Angeles Lakers have three former Kentucky players in Anthony Davis (2012), Malik Monk (2017) and Rajon Rondo (2005-06). Davis and Rondo won NBA titles with the Lakers in 2020. To add to it, Lakers Head Coach, Frank Vogel, is a Kentucky graduate and former Wildcat student manager and video coordinator.
Five other franchises have at least two on its roster: the Charlotte Hornets (Nick Richards [2018-20], PJ Washington [2018-19]), the Detroit Pistons (Hamidou Diallo [2017-18], Trey Lyles ), the Los Angeles Clippers (Eric Bledsoe , Brandon Boston Jr. , the Miami Heat (Bam Adebayo , Tyler Herro ) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns , Jarred Vanderbilt .
Wildcats in the NBA
Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Eric Bledsoe – Los Angeles Clippers
Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
Brandon Boston Jr. – Los Angeles Clippers
Willie Cauley-Stein – Dallas Mavericks
Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers
Hamidou Diallo – Detroit Pistons
De'Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Oklahoma City Thunder
Tyler Herro – Miami Heat
Isaiah Jackson – Indiana Pacers
Keldon Johnson – San Antonio Spurs
Enes Kanter – Boston Celtics
Kevin Knox II – New York Knicks
Trey Lyles – Detroit Pistons
Tyrese Maxey – Philadelphia 76ers
Malik Monk – Los Angeles Lakers
Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
Nerlens Noel – New York Knicks
Immanuel Quickley – New York Knicks
Julius Randle – New York Knicks
Nick Richards – Charlotte Hornets
Rajon Rondo – Los Angeles Lakers
Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Jarred Vanderbilt – Minnesota Timberwolves
John Wall – Houston Rockets
PJ Washington – Charlotte Hornets
Rondo, now entering his 16th season, remains the most experienced Kentucky player in the league. He returned to the Lakers in the offseason for a second stint after playing with the Hawks and Clippers last season. Boston Jr. and Isaiah Jackson (2021) will be the youngest-tenured NBA Wildcats as rookies.
Of the 27 Wildcats on an opening-day NBA roster, John Calipari has coached 26 of them. With Rose, a former Calipari player at Memphis, Calipari has also coached 27 players on 2021-22 opening-day rosters.
More than 20 other Wildcats are slated to play in the NBA G League or play professionally overseas. Other notable alumni include, 1978 national champion Dwane Casey, who returns as head coach of the Detroit Pistons, and Pat Riley continues to serve as president of the Heat.
The season tips off Tuesday with a doubleheader on TNT. The Brooklyn Nets play the 2021 NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, at 7:30 p.m. Then a host of NBA Wildcats will be in the 10 p.m. game as the Golden State Warriors tip off their season against Davis, Monk, Rondo and the Lakers.
Kentucky has enjoyed unprecedented success at putting players in the NBA under Calipari. In the 12 previous seasons of the Calipari era, 43 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school. Included in the recent run are 32 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Davis, Towns and John Wall ) and 21 lottery selections.
Calipari's players have entered the league NBA-ready. His players have garnered 26 All-Star selections – all since 2010 – with Davis winning the game's MVP honor in 2017. Rose was named NBA MVP in 2011. Six of his players have been tabbed All-NBA (Rose, Wall, Davis, Towns, Randle and DeMarcus Cousins), three have been named NBA Rookie of the Year (Rose, Towns and Tyreke Evans), and 15 players from Calipari's first 11 teams at Kentucky have made the NBA All-Rookie teams. UK has produced more All-NBA players, more NBA All-Rookie and more NBA All-Defensive players than any other school in the Calipari era.
The 2020-21 season was another successful one for the former Kentucky stars. Randle was named the 2021 NBA Most Improved Player while Devin Booker (2015) achieved superstar status with a sensational run to the NBA Finals. Following the season, Adebayo, Booker and Keldon Johnson (2019) won gold medals with the U.S. Olympic Team at the Summer Games.
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rondo) have amassed nearly $3.4 billion in career NBA contracts. In the 12 seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled nearly $3 billion in NBA contracts.
In just the 2021-22 season alone, former UK players are slated to make nearly $340 million. Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rondo) will make just about the same thing.
Calipari produced a top-10 pick in 11 straight drafts prior to 2020, a feat no other coach has ever accomplished. He has a streak of 14 consecutive drafts with a first-round pick. Calipari is the only coach in the history of the sport to have four players drafted No. 1 overall (Rose – 2008, Wall – 2010, Davis – 2012, Towns – 2015).
If you want to find success in basketball post-college, come to Kentucky. That simple.