Kentucky basketball legend Reggie Warford dies at 67


Cole Parke

Kentucky basketball legend Reggie Warford died at the age of 67 at his home on Thursday morning.

Warford had battled numerous health issues in the years leading up to his passing, ultimately passing surrounded by family in his home.

While some remember him for what he did on the court, Warford is more likely to be known for his impact off the court, as he was UK’s first Black player to remain on the program for all four years and graduate from the university, officially fully integrating the basketball program.

Though not the first Black UK player ever, as that recognition goes to Tom Payne who played one season in the blue and white two years prior to Warford, it was the latter who truly signified the change.

Six years before Warford arrived on campus, the basketball team was entirely made up of white men, lagging behind the football program in that regard, but two years after Warford graduated college the Wildcats hoisted a national championship with six Black players among its top 11 scorers.

When he started in Lexington as a freshman, Warford was the only Black player on the roster at the time, though he’d be joined by Larry Johnson and Merion Haskins for his sophomore year with the former explicitly stating that Warford’s presence on the team is what inspired him to choose Kentucky over Louisville.

Warford amassed just 206 points across all four seasons at Kentucky, though then coach Joe B. Hall said that the lack of shiny statistics was a plus for the shooting guard, going on to say that Warford’s character and attitude made him the perfect trailblazer in integrating the team.

Though he didn’t originally see himself as the pioneer he was, Warford eventually grew to accept and take pride in the role, citing the moment during his junior year when he played alongside Johnson, Haskins, Jack Givens and James Lee, marking the first time in UK history all five players on the court were Black.

Warford eventually graduated with an arts and sciences degree before enrolling at Murray State for a master’s degree in education. After graduating, he entered the world of coaching.

He was an assistant coach at several notable programs such as Iowa State and Pitt before eventually becoming the head coach of the Harlem Globetrotters in 2003.

Nothing short of a legend to the program, Warford is sure to be missed not just by Kentucky fans but by all the Black men he inspired and provided opportunities to in integrating a program as large as Kentucky.

Warford is survived by his wife, Marisa Warford, and his sons Grant and Tyler Warford.