One Kentucky Wildcats player who holds a special place in the hearts of UK basketball fans is Jamal Mashburn. Mashburn arrived at Kentucky shortly after the probation era and the arrival of coach Rick Pitino. Mashburn was the first blue chip star to sign with the Wildcats since that time and would go on to become a key player in the resurrection of the Kentucky basketball program. Mashburn arrived at Kentucky after being named Mr. Basketball in the state of New York in 1990 and as a Parade All-American.
Mashburn had an instant impact at Kentucky in his freshman year. He helped lead the WIldcats to a 22-6 record and was named to the All-SEC Freshman team and was a 3rd team All-SEC player.
In his sophomore season, Mashburn was a member of one of the most loved teams in UK history. The 1991-92 team, dubbed the Unforgettables, posted a 29-7 record and were one step away from the Final Four, losing to the Duke Blue Devils in one of the greatest college basketball games ever played 104-103 in overtime.
In Mashburn's junior season, the "Monster Mash" led Kentucky to a record of 30-4 and a trip to the NCAA Final Four. The trip back to the Final Four marked the official return of Kentucky basketball to national prominence. Mashburn would become a consensus first team All-American, SEC Player of the Year, First team All-SEC, and a member of the NCAA All-FInal Four and All-Regional teams. At the time, Mashburn ranked 4th in all-time Kentucky scoring. (he is currently sixth). After Mashburn's junior season, he declared his intentions to enter the NBA Draft.
Mashburn would be drafted with the fourth overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1993 NBA Draft. Mashburn had an outstanding rookie season with the Mavericks, averaging nearly 20 points per game and being voted to the NBA's All-Rookie team. Mashburn had a solid NBA career with the Mavericks, Heat, Hornets and 76ers. Injuries mounted and led to Mashburn's retirement from the NBA in 2006. Mashburn can now be seen doing NBA commentary for ESPN.