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Classic SI photo by Rich Clarkson

Splendor in the Bluegrass

Legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp made basketball a religion in the commonwealth and turned the Wildcats program into a dynasty. During his 42 seasons at the helm (1930-72), Kentucky won 876 games and four national titles. Nicknamed the "Baron of Bluegrass," Rupp was a master at developing local talent; more than 80 percent of his players were products of Kentucky high schools. Rupp Arena, home to the Wildcats since 1977, stands as a monument to the coach.

GREATEST ATHLETES
Muhammad Ali, Louisville
The Greatest. Nuff said.

Mary T. Meagher, Louisville
Established world records in 100- and 200-meter butterfly in 1981; won three gold medals (100- and 200-meter fly and 4100 medley relay) at '84 Olympics.
Wes Unseld, Louisville
Two-time All-America at Louisville; named NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP, with Bullets in 1969.
See the complete list of Kentucky's Greatest Athletes
FLASHBACK
1978: The Cats Go Wild
With Goose Givens cookin' for 41 points and Rick Robey for 20, Kentucky won its fifth national championship 94-88 over gutty young Duke.
It was never easy for Kentucky. There was never any time to sit and smile. From the very first game this season, the Wildcats were haunted by their tradition, pressured by their opponents and driven mercilessly by their coach. All of the joys of winning had to wait until they had won it all. That glorious moment came last Monday night in the championship game of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
FULL STORY



SI COVERS
Classic SI cover Affirmative: The infamous SI cover jinx did not fell the mighty Affirmed, who graced the May 15, 1978 issue after outlasting the favored Alydar by 1 1/2 lengths to win the Kentucky Derby. Affirmed, ridden by 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen, then outdueled his rival in two more close races in the Preakness and Belmont to became horse racing's last Triple Crown winner.

Click here to see a gallery of every Kentucky cover
Click here to purchase this cover from SI's Classic Cover Collection

THE SI POLL
Who do Kentuckians root for? SI asked the Bluegrass State residents to weigh in* on sports.
Favorite major league baseball team
Cincinnati Reds
29%
Chicago Cubs
12%


Favorite NFL team
Tennessee Titans
14%
Cincinnati Bengals
13%


Favorite NBA team
Los Angeles Lakers
12%
No favorite
44%


Favorite pro team
Cincinnati Reds
14%
Tennessee Titans
10%


Favorite college
Kentucky
63%
Louisville
16%
Sports figure you'd most like to have dinner with
Pete Rose
7%
Michael Jordan
7%


Greatest athlete who ever lived in or played for a team in your state
Dan Issel
14%
Muhammad Ali
13%
Johnny Unitas
12%
Jamal Mashburn
6%


State's biggest rivalry
U. of Kentucky-Louisville
87%
U. of Kentucky- Tennessee
2%
State's biggest rival
Tennessee
31%
Indiana
21%


Favorite announcer
Dick Vitale
18%
John Madden
13%


More a fan of college or pro sports?
Pro
50%
College
23%


Favorite sport to play
Golf
15%
Basketball
14%
Baseball/softball
12%
Fishing
12%
*Harris Interactive poll, conducted online, of 402 Kentucky residents who identified themselves as sports fans. Margin of error +/- 5%.
FAST FACTS
Admission to statehood: June 1, 1792 (15th state)

Area: 40,411 square miles

Bird: Cardinal

Capital: Frankfort

Economy: Agriculture -- Horses, cattle, tobacco, dairy products, hogs, soybeans, corn. Industry -- Transportation equipment, chemical products, electric equipment, machinery, food processing, tobacco products, coal, tourism.

 
Flower: Goldenrod

Nickname: Bluegrass State

Population: 4,041,769

Pro sports teams: None

Major college programs: Kentucky Wildcats, Murray State Racers, Eastern Kentucky Colonels, Louisville Cardinals, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers


Sports Illustrated's 50th Anniversary
Delicious Derby


Kentucky
Derby
On the first Saturday in May, Kentuckians rally around the Kentucky Derby, the state's top sporting event and a party like no other. But the Derby isn't the only great sports attraction in the Bluegrass State. Find out why actress Ashley Judd loves the University of Kentucky's basketball program and how the Wildcats epitomize a statewide passion.

• SI Sportstown: Owensboro, Ky.
Submit your own Kentucky sports memory
Kentucky's 50 greatest athletes
SI 50th Tour Information

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STATITUDES
2 Major league no-hitters pitched by Southgate, Ky., native and current U.S. senator Jim Bunning -- one of them a perfect game against the Mets in 1964. Bunning is one of only five players to throw a no-hitter in different leagues.

3 Fillies to win the Kentucky Derby -- Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).

8 NCAA individual national gymnastics championships won by University of Kentucky All-American Jenny Hansen during a three-year period from 1993-95, which still ranks as the most individual national titles ever won in women's collegiate gymnastics.

84 NASCAR Winston Cup races won by Owensboro, Ky., native Darrell Waltrip. A three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion (in 1981, '82 and '85), Waltrip won his only Daytona 500 in 1989.

1990 Year Bernadette Locke became the first woman to coach major men's college basketball. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino named Locke -- then 31, a former All-America guard at Georgia and an assistant with the Bulldog women's team -- as one of his assistants.

8,160 Yards of total offense produced by Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch. Despite starting only 24 games, he shattered a number of Wildcat passing records, completing 795 of 1,184 attempts for 8,835 career yards and 74 touchdowns.

90,600 Number of mint juleps sold at Churchill Downs on Derby Day 2000, requiring 150 bushels of fresh mint, 2,000 gallons of julep mix (a concoction of bourbon and sugar water) and 60 tons of ice. The julep was declared the official drink of the Derby in 1975.

$1,085,760 Career earnings of Citation, the Triple Crown winner and product of Kentucky's Calumet Farm, during a 45-race career from 1947-51. The stallion was racing's first millionaire horse and finished in the money in all but one of his races.

ENEMY OF THE STATE
Rick Pitino
Now that Pitino is coaching archrival Louisville instead of the University of Kentucky, many basketball fans in the state consider him a traitor. Respondents' most hated opponents: Duke (26%) and the University of Tennessee (20%).

Rick Pitino
38%
Christian Laettner
18%
Bob Knight
12%
SI 50th POLL
Which is the best team in Kentucky basketball history?







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