To be in the rafters at hallowed Rupp Arena means many things. It means you have had a significant impact on the University of Kentucky basketball program. It means you did things that few others before or after you accomplished. It means you are a lifelong member of a short list of individuals who can make their claim atop the unrivaled tradition and history of the game's greatest program. Most of all, it means you have earned a place worthy of infinite honor.
When you look at the banners, you see names like Mashburn, Macy, Givens, Issel, and Walker... all very deserving and rightfully so. What you do NOT see is the name Tony Delk, and that has to change.
If your formative years were the 90's and you did not wear "double zero" on your jersey at some point... you were doing it wrong. If you did not practice his amazing hop step and try to imitate it... you were doing it wrong, and if you do not have the Rupp PA announcer's "DOUBLE Ooooo TONY DELK!!" stuck in your head for all time... well, you did it wrong.
In his four years, he heavily contributed to the domination of the decade of the 90's by the Kentucky Wildcats as well as got his degree from the University. Delk is truly one of the best players to ever come through the program, he was a star, and we had the pleasure of four years of TD.
Delk came to Kentucky the year after "The Unforgettables", at a time when we were on the verge of busting onto the national spotlight and becoming a national player again. The prior spring the Cats had played in arguably the greatest tournament game of all-time in the infamous Laettner shot game.
Delk was a role player that freshman year on a loaded roster consisting of Travis Ford, Jamal Mashburn, Dale Brown, and Rodney Dent. The next year Delk would become a significant factor and a leader as a sophomore. By Delk's senior year, he was our best player and most important cog in the wheel of one of the historically best teams of all time.
Delk ended up leading that 1996 team to the national championship and ending a long drought for all of Big Blue Nation. He made SEVEN three pointers against Syracuse in the title game and was named Most Outstanding Player of the final four, the perfect culmination to a storied career.
Delk would go on to be drafted 16th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. He would play 10 NBA seasons for seven different teams. Delk would end up averaging 9.1 points per game in a career that was seemingly always on the move. Unfortunately, for Delk, his contract always allowed for easy movement among teams and was a big reason he never truly found a home. Having said that, to average nearly double figures in that type of career movement, over 10 years is an outstanding sentiment to his consistency.
The list of Delk's accolades and accomplishments at UK is as good as anyone's and seems to create a resume that is a no-brainer to hang the man's jersey. Just a few of the aforementioned accolades:
- All-SEC Tournament Team
- 2nd Team all SEC (Coaches)
- 1st Team all SEC (Coaches and AP)
- NCAA Tourney all-regional team
- 1st Team all SEC (Coaches and AP)
- 1st Team All-American (Consensus, UPI, Wooden, USBWA)
- 2nd Team All-American (AP, Sporting News, Basketball Times, NABC)
- NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player - Regional
- NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player - Final Four
- SEC Player of the year (Coaches and AP)
Delk was inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008 as one of his post career accolades. He also started a charity called the Tyler Delk Sickle Cell Foundation in honor of his daughter Tyler, who suffers from the condition.
I have to think there is nobody more deserving of hanging in the rafters that is not already there. If this season goes as planned, we could be in for an historical run which will be remembered for a long time. In this year of potential glory and one of lasting Kentucky lore, what better season than to cement the historical significance of one of the Commonwealth's greatest.
Make the call UK.
Enjoy some former TD highlights: