Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wildcat Goes Gold to Revive UK Tradition

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wildcat Goes Gold to Revive UK Tradition

Article excerpt

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- When Willie Cauley-Stein debuted as The Blond Blocker Tuesday night against Boise State, the reaction to the Kentucky center's new hairdo all but exploded Twitter.

For all the shock value of Cauley-Stein's suddenly golden locks, becoming a "blond out of a bottle" is actually an homage to Kentucky Wildcats basketball tradition.

Many who remember Kentucky basketball from the late 1970s fondly recall Jay Shidler, The Blond Bomber, a peroxide blond with a knack for knocking down jump shots from two zip codes away.

From flat tops to unibrows to dance crazes, Kentucky Wildcats basketball players have the ability to become pop-culture trend setters in the commonwealth.

In terms of state-wide impact, let's rank five recent Wildcats who became known for a defining characteristic.

5. Ramel Bradley

Claim to Kentucky pop-culture fame: Bradley's celebratory "diamond" hand gesture, that was inspired by Jay-Z's 2000 CD The Dynasty: Roc La Familia.

What he said about it: "It's not for me. I do it for Kentucky. It means dynasty," Bradley told the Herald-Leader in 2007. "Kentucky basketball is the best basketball program ever. I got it from Jay- Z, the best rapper."

The extent that it caught on: Bradley's buddy, Joe Crawford, threw up a "diamond" at UK's 2008 Senior Day as a tribute to their friendship, but it did not sweep the state. Had UK not had three straight, double-digit-loss seasons in Bradley's final three seasons (2006-08), the gesture would have had a better chance to "catch on."

4. Nerlens Noel

Claim to Kentucky pop-culture fame: A flat-top haircut inspired by Will Smith's character on the 1990s TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

What he said about it: "Growing up, I watched Fresh Prince of Bel- Air every night before I went to bed," Noel said at UK's Media Day before last season.

The extent that it caught on: Noel's hairstyle had its own Twitter feed. Ryan Harrow, then UK point guard, got his hair cut to mimic Noel's before last season, but he soon went away from it.

3. Antoine Walker

Claim to Kentucky pop-culture fame: The "Walker Wiggle" aka "The Shimmy Shake," an upper torso-gyrating dance that Walker did to punctuate positive plays

What he said about it: "I don't celebrate (at UK) nearly as much as I used to," Walker told the Herald-Leader in 1996. …

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