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Louisville’s Best NBA Players

The Cards really have had some great players over the years

Kareem Abdul Jabbar Action Portrait
LANDOVER, MD - 1974: Kareem Abdul Jabbar #33 of the Milwaukee Bucks posts up against the Wes Unseld #41 of the Baltimore Bullets during an NBA game in 1974 in Landover, Maryland.
Photo by Jerry Wachter/NBAE via Getty Images

Louisville has only been in the ACC a few years really, but the Cardinals have a glorious basketball history. More impressively, they built it in the shadow of mighty Kentucky. Somewhat like Duke, Louisville has a solid base in town but even there, there are a whole lot of Kentucky fans. And they control the state pretty much.

Anyway, here are our picks for Louisville’s finest contributions to the NBA.

  • Wes Unseld - People talk about small-ball centers now like Draymond Green, but Unseld did it in the ‘60s and ‘70s when he had to deal with Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton - at 6-7. How good was he? Good enough to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in his first season. Also possibly the best outlet passer of all time and voted Most Stoic/Least Likely To Smile.
  • Darrell Griffith - Dr. Dunkenstein had a 48” vertical and only injuries stopped him from being an all-time great.
  • Junior Bridgeman - Bridgeman had a long and solid NBA career and was widely respected. But when he retired, he began opening Wendy’s franchises and now the man is worth over $600 million and recently bought Ebony and Jet Magazines.
  • Donovan Mitchell - He’s only been in the league a few short years but he’s risen to All-Star level and is a highly desirable player for almost any team.
  • Derek Smith - Partly sentimental because as Duke fans we’re keenly aware of Nolan Smith’s story and how much it devastated him to lose his dad at such a young age. But on the other hand, Smith had an excellent NBA career, averaging 12.8 points over nine seasons. He also had to learn an entirely new skill set to succeed and did so admirably.