Kentucky Leads Nation with 26 Players on NBA Opening-Day Rosters
LEXINGTON, Ky. – At the dawn of a new NBA season, Kentucky men’s basketball’s ability to develop and prepare players for the next step continues to manifest itself as 26 former Wildcat student-athletes appear on NBA opening-day rosters.
The total of 26 players on NBA opening-day rosters (including two-way and inactive players) that played and finished their college basketball careers at Kentucky is more than any other college program in the country. Duke, with 24, is the only other school with more than 20 players in the NBA. The list was compiled from the NBA’s official opening-day roster list.
The Southeastern Conference leads all collegiate conferences with 92 players on opening day rosters. The Atlantic Coast Conference is second with 77 players to open the 2023-24 season.
Of the 15 NBA franchises featuring a Wildcat, eight have multiple Kentucky players. New York, Sacramento and Oklahoma City each have a trio of Wildcats on their roster while the Heat, Lakers, Pacers, Bucks and Hornets each have two.
Wildcats in the NBA
Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
Brandon Boston Jr. – Los Angeles Clippers
Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers
De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Oklahoma City Thunder
Tyler Herro – Miami Heat
Isaiah Jackson – Indiana Pacers
Keldon Johnson – San Antonio Spurs
Chris Livingston – Milwaukee Bucks
Trey Lyles – Sacramento Kings
Tyrese Maxey – Philadelphia 76ers
Malik Monk – Sacramento Kings
Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
Immanuel Quickley – New York Knicks
Julius Randle – New York Knicks
Nick Richards – Charlotte Hornets
Olivier Sarr – Oklahoma City Thunder
Shaedon Sharpe – Portland Trail Blazers
Jacob Toppin – New York Knicks
Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Oscar Tshiebwe – Indiana Pacers
Jarred Vanderbilt – Los Angeles Lakers
Cason Wallace – Oklahoma City Thunder
PJ Washington – Charlotte Hornets
TyTy Washington Jr. – Milwaukee Bucks
In 14 seasons under head coach John Calipari, 47 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, including 35 first-round selections and three No. 1 overall picks (Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and John Wall). He has a streak of 16 consecutive drafts with a first-round pick dating back to his time at Memphis. Calipari is one of only two coaches in the history of the sport to have four players drafted No. 1 overall (Derrick Rose – 2008, Wall – 2010, Davis – 2012, Towns – 2015).
In the 2022-23 season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (first-team) De’Aaron Fox and Julius Randle (third-team) garnered All-NBA laurels while Fox earned the inaugural NBA Clutch of the Year award and four players earned All-Star distinction. Among all active collegiate coaches, Calipari has more total players (10) and more total All-Star selections (32) than any other coach. Only Dean Smith (12) had more former players earn an All-Star nod. Jamal Murray capped another Wildcat-led NBA Playoff run by becoming UK’s 16th player to win an NBA Championship.
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, Calipari-coached players have amassed nearly $4 billion in career NBA contracts. In the 14 seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled nearly $3.5 billion in NBA contracts.