April 29, 2010
Whether it's appearing on magazine covers in a personalized jersey, jet-setting around the country to see games or preparing a home-made meal for the team at her house, Ashley Judd has earned the right to call herself Kentucky basketball's No. 1 fan.
If she's not careful, however, a fellow celebrity is going to wrest that title from her.
Up-and-coming rapper Drake was a regular at Kentucky games in John Calipari's first season, flying in from Toronto to sit behind the bench during the NCAA tournament and even coaching one of the intrasquad teams at Big Blue Madness. On Tuesday night, he again expressed his support for the program, inviting Calipari and the entire Wildcats team on stage with him during his concert in Lexington.
"They gave me a chance to actually come in and talk to them early in the season," Drake told CoachCal.com after a Kentucky win last month. "Just them listening to me, I think we all connected. They're all my boys. This is my family."
It's unclear how Drake's friendship with Calipari started, but it's pretty obvious that his affinity for this past year's team was legit. He regularly tweets back and forth with Calipari, he refers to players by their nicknames in interviews and he celebrated with the team in the locker room after NCAA tournament wins.
On Tuesday night, Drake played to the pro-Kentucky crowd throughout the show, announcing he was "a Wildcat till I #%&@ing die," leading a C-A-T-S cheer and performing the John Wall dance on stage. He referred to the Wildcats as his "family" when he invited them to join him on stage.
The association with celebrities like Judd, Drake and LeBron James is another perk Calipari can emphasize to give Kentucky an advantage on the recruiting trail. Just like the Showtime Lakers attracted players and fans because of their ties to Hollywood in the 1980s, Kentucky is quickly becoming college basketball's answer to that.
As for the relationship between Judd and Drake, sorry to disappoint, but it sounds more like a friendship than a rivalry.
"She's a loyal fan," Drake said. "I sort of take my cues from her. I'm the calm one, she's the excited one and we're just both here together doing it for UK."