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Iconic Moments of the John Calipari Era: 2010

in part 1 of a 6-part series, we are going to reminisce on the top moments of each season at UK under Coach Cal.

Dave Martin/Getty Images

2010 is the year that the John Calipari ERA started in Lexington.  It was the year that he brought in the #1 recruiting class in John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe.  It was the year that Kentucky became the cool team.

There can be an argument made that this 2010 team could be considered the most talented team Cal has had at UK.  When you consider the roster consisted of eight NBA draft picks, it is hard to argue it.


The 'Cats would go 35-3 on the season, only losing on the road at South Carolina when Devan Downey went nuts for 30 and on the road in Knoxville to Tennessee.

The 'Cats would end the season in an unlikely loss in the elite eight to West Virginia to finish an unfinished season for good.  Although the 'Cats would not break the 12 year drought of Final Fours and would not add title #8 to the rafters, they did have a season full of iconic moments.

The 2010 Wildcats set the stage for the coming Wildcat teams under Cal.  Teams that have swagger, confidence, and play for the name on the front of the jersey.


The Door

Before John Calipari took the job at Kentucky, the rumors of John Calipari taking the job at Kentucky were running rampant.  No single moment of that saga better sums up the hysteria of the Big Blue Nation than "the door."  The local Fox station set up a live camera feed to the opening of the Memphis Athletic Department.  The hope was they would catch Cal and Memphis officials discussing Cal leaving.

The John Wall Dance

If you could pin it down to the single moment that UK became cool again, it was the John Wall dance.  He was the #1 player in the class and was in a line of Coach Cal point guards who changed the game.  Visions of Derek Rose danced in BBN's heads and when he did the dance, he created a viral moment.

John Calipari's "State of the Union" Address

In what would become a theme, Coach Cal addressed the crowd and fans in a state of the union type setting.

I look at this team behind me and the passion in front of me and I see the foundation for MY VISION FOR OUR PROGRAM.

It's a vision where we are THE GOLD STANDARD NOT JUST for College Basketball BUT FOR ALL College athletics.

THAT MEANS superiority in EVERYTHING FROM OUR ACADEMIC STANDARDS to our FACILITIES TO OUR LIVING SPACES. WE WILL be A PROGRAM rooted in INTEGRITY AND run with class and we will always remember that we represent this great commonwealth.

WITH those principles guiding us, we will earn the PRIVILEGE OF BEING HELD TO a higher standard both as players and coaches. AND THAT'S exactly WHAT IT IS - A PRIVILEGE to represent all of big blue nation in everything that we do.

John Wall's game winner vs. Miami OH

The Wildcats were staring down the barrel of an embarrassing early season loss until John Wall bailed out the BBN in his very first collegiate game.

John Wall Challenges Physics and posterizes UNC

Kentucky took down the Tar Heels in Lexington and John Wall shined, in one moment he made it clear just how advanced he was.

John Wall vs. UCONN in Madison Square Garden

In one of the more hyped games, John Wall and Kentucky took on Kemba Walker and UCONN.  Wall would score 12 of the last 15 points for UK to carry them to the win.  The stage and the hype was reminiscent of a final four game.

Aaron Torres wrote a fantastic article on the atmosphere of the game and called it a Final Four in December.

Why did Kentucky-UConn feel so important Wednesday night? I don't know why, but as someone who was in the arena, I can tell you it did.

When the ball was finally tipped about 20 minutes later, the crowd went from electric, to some kind of word that either hasn't been invented yet, or I'm not clever enough to think of.

It defied explanation, it really did. This was a mid-December game, sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas, on a WEDNESDAY night, and yet you couldn't find a seat in the entire place. Not one. People were hanging over railings, and sitting in the aisles. Again, for a mid-week...non-conference December.

And when Kentucky jumped out to a 12-0 lead, well, I've never heard the Garden as loud as it was right then. Never.

UK2K: 2,000 Wins

Kentucky became the first school in the history of the NCAA to win 2,000 games.

Cousins Dominates the Cardinals

DeMarcus Cousins scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to end a 2-game winning streak for the Cardinals.  Kentucky officially took back the state that night.

Wildcats hit #1

After starting the season 19-0, Kentucky reached #1 in the polls for the first time since 2003.  This was one of those moments when you realized just how bad things had been for BBN.

Hoops for Haiti

Haiti experienced a devastating earth quake and John Calipari felt compelled to do something.  In a matter of hours, he had put together the event and in just one evening, the telethon generated over 1 Million Dollars.

LeBron is the Y

The Wildcats coolness factor went up exponentially when superstar LeBron James decided to attend a game in Rupp Arena.  He was later tabbed as the Y in the cheer ceremony to drive the hype into overdrive.

DeMarcus Cousins: "Call Me"

An opposing fan somehow got DeMarcus Cousins phone number the days leading up to the game in Starkville.  Little did they know that the phone calls would fuel a fire inside Boogie, he scored 19 points and 14 rebounds in a big win for UK.

Boogie Tips it in to lead to an SEC title

The 'Cats were facing Mississippi State once again, this time in the finals of the SEC tournament.  With the Wildcats down by two points, Eric Bledsoe missed a free  throw on purpose.  The 'Cats got the rebound and after a John Wall miss, he rebounded the miss and instantly put it back in at the buzzer to go to overtime.  The 'Cats would end up winning the game in overtime.

Calipari lands another top class

This was a very important moment for Cal's future at Kentucky, it is one thing to persuade guys to follow you to Lexington, but can you sustain that momentum and replace what you were about to lose. Getting Enes Kanter, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, and Doron Lamb not only set the table for the next season... it gave UK two components of the 2012 National Championship team.

"The Greatest night in UK Basketball History"

The 2010 NBA draft saw five Kentucky Wildcats be drafted in the first round; John Wall #1 overall, DeMarcus Cousins #5, Patrick Patterson #14, Eric Bledsoe #18, and Daniel Orton 29th.  Coach Cal seemingly got a bit overzealous by saying

"I'd like to say it is the biggest day in the history of Kentucky's program... the biggest day for the University of Kentucky."

The comments drew the ire of many, and while it was a bit hyperbolic, he had a good point.  Having five players in the first round set the stage for his recruiting strategy.  Get the best talent possible and prepare them for a future that will change their family tree.


The 2010 team is one that will always be remembered by the members of Big Blue Nation as well as anyone who seriously follows college basketball.  The collection of talent is rare enough, but to get them to play together and play for the commonwealth as a collective unit is something else altogether.

This team may not have a significant place on paper in the history books, but they will always be a  part of the greatest memories of being a Kentucky Basketball fan.