James Naismith may have invented basketball in Massachusetts, but the Bluegrass State perfected it. From heart-stopping buzzer beaters, to the roar of the impassioned devotees, to the thrill of those legendary barn-burners—the heart of basketball beats in Kentucky.
We are home to two college powerhouses whose rivalry has reached a fever pitch. Separated by a mere 77 miles, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville couldn’t be farther apart in the minds of fans. And we all know, of course, which team is on the side of right.
The schools have fueled dreams for generations. Across the state, young boys shoot backyard hoops until the last vestiges of dusk steal their sight—but not the glimmer of hope of one day playing on the big stage. They grow to play in our local high schools and colleges, writing their own stories, embedding their names into the mythical lore we pass from one generation to the next.
In this edition of PADUCAH LIFE Magazine, we celebrate some of the local legends who put west Kentucky basketball on the map—from underdog teams who fought their way to the top, to current players garnering national attention, to those who have taken the gospel of basketball to the rest of the world.
The threads of basketball run through just about every part of the Commonwealth, and definitive threads run through the stories presented here. We feature stars at Murray State, both new and old. Some were legends at schools such as Heath High School where their great-grandchildren now attend. There’s the legendary high school coach whose son is giving basketball players a chance to play and get an education. And his son left a legacy of saving lives, a reminder of which is played out annually on the court. There are those who made names for themselves as young players, and today, they are the coaches, raising up a new generation of basketball players and fans.
It is difficult to tell where one story stops and another begins. Basketball weaves lives together, cutting across time and space. It’s a hoopla like no other, and it comes to full bloom here in Kentucky. See you on the hardwood!