Wall’s dance craze helped rejuvenate UK


Freshman guard John Wall moves past John Flowers to make a lay up in the second half of UK’s Elite 8 loss , 73-66, against West Virginia at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY on Saturday, March 27, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

You only get one chance at a first impression. And last year, John Wall made the most of his.

“A 6-foot-4 freshman from Raleigh, North Carolina, No. 11, John Wall.” The moment the words rang through Rupp Arena at last year’s Big Blue Madness, the fireworks and fog cleared to show the freshman phenom unleashing the most simple, yet catchy dance moves on the crowd of 24,000.

Dorrough’s “Ice Cream Paint Job” became the soundtrack for a move that would be dubbed “The John Wall Dance,” one that would become more popular in the state of Kentucky than the “Macarena” was to the entire country. Just a little tongue out of the mouth and an arm flex topped ESPN highlights not only that October night, but for an entire season.

Wall admits he didn’t create the dance, but rather adopted the move from a Louisville rapper.

However, there’s no question of who made it a nationwide phenomenon.

But the dance was more than just a new craze in Lexington. Its birth took place at John Calipari’s Big Blue Madness debut, and in many ways signified the start of a new UK basketball era. Big Blue Madness needed a reboot just as badly as the Big Blue Nation, and one dance move ignited it all.

In the waning stages of the Billy Gillispie days, it was undeniable that it seemed the UK basketball team wasn’t having fun anymore. John Wall changed all that with a flex and a few turns of the wrist. He was the leader of a young team that needed to gel, and he ensured it did so by having fun.

For the first time in more than a decade, UK became a national brand in college basketball again. The team was conquering top-10 countdowns as fast as it was topping national rankings. The chemistry and playful antics of the young players became a focal point of college basketball storylines.

With the success and lighthearted nature of the team, combined with the near-perfect salesmanship of Calipari, came even more national attention. Soon enough celebrities were sighted imitating the guard’s smooth moves, including the likes of Drake, Ashley Judd, Magic Johnson, Coach Cal and even Wall’s future team manager of the Washington Wizards, Ernie Grunfeld.

Whether or not this next group of highly touted freshmen will have the fun, carefree nature of last year’s remains to be seen. What’s certain is that Wall has set one hell of a bar for any freshman hoping to leave an unforgettable first impression this year.

Matt Murray is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]