John Wall didn’t need an introduction to elicit an ovation. With 24,000 crammed into legendary Rupp Arena on Friday night for the school’s annual spectacle, Big Blue Madness, Wall walked on to the floor and lifted his hand to acknowledge his adoring fans.
As the first Kentucky player to go No. 1 in the NBA draft, Wall continues to hold a special place among supporters of one of college basketball’s most storied and tradition-rich programs. Nine of Wall’s Washington Wizards teammates trailed behind at the school’s basketball kickoff event, staring up at the raucous crowd and wondering in disbelief how so many people — especially those who camped out for tickets several days in advance — would show up for a practice.
“They really love basketball here, and it’s big to them. It’s very rare you get that anywhere else,” Wall said of Kentucky fans before the Wizards’ 93-89 loss Saturday to the New Orleans Pelicans in the first NBA exhibition game at Rupp since 2000.