Memorable moments at Big Blue Madness


Freshman Enes Kanter makes his dramatic entrance at Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena on Friday, Oct. 15, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

By Les Johns | @KernelJohns

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From Midnight Madness to Big Blue Madness, from Memorial Coliseum to Rupp Arena, the debut practice of the UK basketball team has always been a spectacle featuring memorable moments.

Here are five of the top Madness moments from the 29 years of the event.

The UnderKanter introduction: 2010

Enes Kanter, a 6-foot-11 Turkish big man, was part of head coach John Calipari’s top-ranked recruiting class of 2010. His introduction at Big Blue Madness, however, was the only time he was introduced as a member of the Cats, as he was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for benefits received while playing for a Turkish professional team.

Kanter became a underdog-style fan favorite as he fought for collegiate eligibility, and the “Free Enes” movement was in full swing as Madness took place. Kanter was a pro wrestling fan, and his favorite wrestler was the Undertaker. At Madness, Kanter was introduced in full Undertaker mode, wearing a black flat-brim hat as he walked through billowing smoke to the song “Graveyard Symphony.”

Rick Pitino on a Harley: 1994

Midnight Madness began at UK during Joe B. Hall’s tenure as coach, but Rick Pitino took the event to another level by introducing more showmanship and creativity.

1994’s theme was “Born to be Wild” and was capped off by Pitino dressed in leather riding into a packed Memorial Coliseum on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Happy 100th Birthday, UK Basketball: 2002

Current players and alumni shared the stage to celebrate 100 years of UK basketball. Prior to player introductions, a birthday cake was presented at center court. Much to everyone’s surprise, long-time beloved equipment manager Bill Keightley was in the cake. Once player introductions were complete, Keightley jumped out of the cake to celebrate the birthday.

John Calipari’s speeches and catchphrases: 2009-11

Fans and critics alike will agree that Calipari is a smooth talker. When he grabs the microphone at Big Blue Madness, it is much like a state-of-the-union address, except his approval rating in Rupp Arena is nearly 100 percent.

Gold standard. Players-first program. The Kentucky Effect. These are talking point phrases Calipari has preached to the masses gathered for Madness the past three years.

In his first Madness address in 2009, Calipari said, “I see the foundation for my vision of this program. It’s a vision where we are the gold standard, not just for college basketball but for all college athletics.

“I’m excited, I’m humbled and I’m honored to be your coach. Tonight we turn the page from anticipation to preparation.”

Four years later, he is preparing to defend a national championship and deliver another red-meat speech to the faithful.

The John Wall dance: 2009

John Wall was introduced to the Rupp crowd at Madness with subtle flair. An opening emerged in the rafters over the crowd and the spotlight showed a smiling Wall. With a simple arm flex and twist of the wrist, Wall popularized a dance move that took Big Blue Nation by storm.

Cats fans spent the next several months finding unique spots to perform the dance to post on social media sites, and the dance even made its way on to the TV show “Cougar Town.”