Across the United States, you won’t find many states that embrace basketball like Kentucky, and Louisville is at the epicenter of it. At the epicenter of the epicenter, so to speak, U of L held its second annual Louisville Live event on Friday night at Fourth Street Live.
Fans got a look at the 2019 men’s and women’s basketball teams Louisville will have this year. Both competed in three-point contests within their team, with Ryan McMahon and Jessica Laemmle winning on the men’s and women’s side, respectively.
Jaelyn Withers also came away as the dunk contest winner, dethroning last year’s champion Darius Perry.
Perhaps the biggest change from last year’s event was the star power that was brought in for the show. Donovan Mitchell returned as a special guest for the dunk contest. Jack Harlow, fresh off his new mixtape Confetti, also arrived as a surprise guest for Louisville. Angel McCoughtry made an appearance with the women’s team earlier in the show, making an announcement that she would be bringing her ice cream shop to Louisville. Darrell Griffith and Denny Crum also made appearances.
In addition, Louisville Live also saw the Harlem Globetrotters make a cameo appearance, along with Vince Tyra and Luke Hancock playing a Louisville-themed horse game called “502.” Louisville Live made every attempt it could to one-up its inaugural event last year, with bigger names making surprise appearances.
This came as no surprise, given Louisville now has bigger expectations under second-year head coach Chris Mack. Mack made his dramatic entrance with the men’s basketball team alongside his son, wearing a custom Louisville biker jacket. This mirrored last year’s entrance, where he arrived on the court with a Louisville hat and varsity jacket.
Just like Mack’s entrance, Louisville made their proclamations known on the event. The team alluded to winning a national championship in Atlanta later this spring, going undefeated, and of course beating Kentucky this year.
The women’s team has its own buzz this season as well. The Cardinals are not only projected as a potential top ten team to start the season, but they are also the favorites to win the ACC per analyst Debbie Antonelli. Jazmine Jones also returns to remind us all that she is possibly the absolute best.
Much like last year, Louisville parlayed a successful live event into a big time commitment. The Cards got a commitment from Aiden Igiehon shortly after last year’s event; today, U of L got one from top JUCO talent Jay Scrubb.
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) September 28, 2019
What the Future of Louisville Live Could Look Like
With two Louisville Live events in the books, one has to wonder what the next steps for Louisville Live will be in 2020 and beyond.
First would be where Louisville Live goes from here, in terms of the event. There’s an unfound novelty to Louisville Live being held at Fourth Street Live; you don’t see many of the premier college basketball programs being able to hold their pre-season rallies in an entertainment district like that, especially since it has been free for any fan to attend the last two seasons.
But with the program reintroducing a new version of the iconic Dunking Cardinal logo, and changing the court to a throwback-oriented layout, perhaps they will bring the event to Freedom Hall. There would undoubtedly be questions about pricing and capacity if it were moved to a venue like that, but I imagine a lot of fans would get behind Louisville Live going there at some point.
Case in point, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers have a preseason game in a few weeks at their former arena, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. And coincidentally, the Blazers also adopted a throwback-style court for their 50th anniversary season. Louisville is a little bit past their 100th season of basketball, but they could make something happen with Louisville Live (or even a preseason game) at Freedom Hall.
And let’s not forget what started the night; the friendly 2-on-2 featuring Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra, and former U of L standout and 2013 Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock. Maybe future events wouldn’t hold a 2-on-2 event, but what about a possible one-on-one dream match between two Louisville greats? Most fans would be excited to see Russ Smith battle Donovan Mitchell in a game of 21. Or about Shoni Schimmel going toe-to-toe with Asia Durr? The possibilities here are endless.
Chris Mack went from a varsity jacket and hat in 2018, to a biker jacket with Kid Rock blaring and his son making an appearance on-stage. If next year doesn’t see him upgrading his entrance attire to a studded leather jacket like Rob Halford, and coming out riding a chopper like The Undertaker in 2001, I’ll be the first man to be disappointed. And if he does so, he absolutely needs to come out to Judas Priest. That’s just me, as a longtime metal fan speaking.
We can certainly expect Mitchell and Jack Harlow to make repeated appearances. But what about Bryson Tiller showing up? Or possibly WWE superstar (and absolute freak of an athlete) Ricochet? Those are two I’d like to show up in the near future.
That’s not even getting into Louisville Live as a big event for recruiting. With two big time commitments stemming from the event (or, at the very least, a strong correlation), there’s no doubt that Louisville Live will continue to be a staple of U of L basketball for years to come.
The only question is, what will U of L do next?