Famous Fans: CBB’s Celebrity Row
We know that NBA teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are famous for having celebrity fans like Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee. But college basketball has some big names following its teams as well.
With that in mind, we take a look at which celebrities you can catch on campus.
Flavor Flav (UNLV)
The “Public Enemy” and reality TV star is turning into a sports-crasher. If there is a winning team around and he can somehow find a connection, Flav will show up. A Long Island native, the rapper was seen at the New York Giants’ Super Bowl celebration. But his college basketball allegiance apparently aligns with his new home, Las Vegas, where he was pictured in the student section for the Runnin’ Rebels game against San Diego State. It probably isn’t a coincidence that UNLV has gone through a renaissance, holding a 22-6 record.
Bill Cosby (Temple)
While Flavor Flav has been latching on to recent winners, Cosby has been a longtime fan of his alma mater, Temple, where he played football and ran track. Over the years, he has been visible at both football and basketball games. He helped the Owls unveil their new football uniforms in 2007 and has been a member of the school’s board of trustees. Of course, Cosby - while he never played hoops for the school - is more commonly attached to the Owls of the hardwood, who have had much more success over the years than their gridiron brethren.
John Calipari has described popular rapper Drake as his “good friend” on Twitter. Whether this is a recruiting ploy or not - young men heading to college no doubt would love to meet Drake - is irrelevant because, well, it seems to be true. This New York Times blog post quotes Drake as saying he’s just a “natural fan” of the Wildcats despite being a native of Toronto. Drake has been photographed at UK games often and even gave UK superfan Ashley Judd a hug after a 2010 NCAA Tournament win. That’s reason enough to be part of the Big Blue Nation.
Jason Sudeikis (Kansas)
The rumored couple of “Saturday Night Live” star Sudeikis and actress Olivia Wilde were spotted at the Kansas-Howard game in Lawrence last month. You know Sudeikis is a big KU fan if he has taken the time to convert Wilde, who was pictured at the game (below) wearing a Kansas knit cap. Sudeikis grew up in Overland Park, KS, where he was a high school basketball player just 45 minutes from Lawrence.
Bill Murray (Towson & Illinois)
Murray, a native of the Chicago suburbs, is a big sports fan who has been spotted at numerous Windy City sporting events over the years. But he has had to split his college basketball allegiances recently. Murray’s son, Luke, is an assistant coach at Towson, which is suffering through a 1-28 season during which it finally snapped an NCAA record 41-game losing streak. But Murray also is an Illinois hoops fans - famously pictured at games during the Illini’s 37-2 campaign in 2004-05, when they were national runners-up. Illinois also has fallen on tough times as coach Bruce Weber’s job may be in jeopardy. At least we know that Murray is loyal.
Barack Obama & Michelle Obama (Oregon State)
Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of First Lady Michelle Obama, is the head coach at Oregon State. As such, the nation’s No. 1 hoops fan, Barack Obama, also has been supporting the Beavers. This season, the President and First Lady were pictured at Oregon State’s win over Towson, which is located north of Baltimore. Of course, Obama attended Columbia and counts himself as a huge Chicago sports fan. But if the photos of the First Couple attending Beavers games are any indication, they now are some of the biggest Oregon State fans around.
Nick Lachey (Cincinnati)
The former “98 Degrees” star, who often is pictured wearing Cincinnati garb, has said that he wants to be the Ashley Judd of Cincy hoops. We think he has a way to go before he’s on Judd’s level, but who doesn’t? Lachey is a Queens City native but actually attended Miami (OH). But it sure was a lot easier cheering for the Bearcats growing up in the early 1990s as Bob Huggins led them to the 1992 Final Four. Unfortunately, since Huggins left, it’s been a bumpy ride.
Sure, why not? The Brooklyn-born rapper has no connection to Kentucky but loves basketball and winning and has been befriended by John Calipari. Hova visited the Kentucky locker room after the team defeated North Carolina in the Elite Eight last year in Newark (which got the New Jersey Nets fined $50,000 by David Stern) and showed up on New Year’s Eve to watch UK beat Louisville. Afterward, Coach Cal tweeted, “I really appreciate my good friend Jay-Z coming to our game 2day. #LaFamilia #WeAreUK”. If we owned part of the Nets, we’d probably need a break from losing too.
John Mellencamp (Indiana)
An Indiana native, Mellencamp remains one of the biggest Hoosier fans out there. The singer has put his money where his mouth is as well. He provided the lead gift for the year-round athletic practice facility named in his honor, which opened for the 1996-97 athletic year. Of course, Mellencamp - just like the rest of the state - is mad about IU basketball, which finally has returned to prominence this season. The Hoosiers are 20-7 this season after getting off to a 15-1 start. Mellencamp, who lives just a few miles outside of Bloomington, certainly is bracing himself for March.
Bill Clinton (Arkansas)
Clinton is famous for attending NCAA tournament games and watching Arkansas win it all in 1994; check the photo below of Clinton - then a sitting president - on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a nod toward his elation at Arkansas’ run to the 1994 national championship. Born and raised in Arkansas, Clinton eventually was governor in the state before moving on to the White House. He currently lives in New York, so he has to root on the Razorbacks from afar.
Jaleel White (UCLA)
If Steve Urkel can’t play basketball, he might as well watch it. OK, White is years removed from his role as a lovable nerd on the popular sitcom “Family Matters,” but he’s still known for that role. He also has become known for sitting courtside to watch his beloved Bruins. From where did White’s fandom originate? He was born and raised in nearby Pasadena, CA, and graduated from UCLA film school in 2001. Tweeted White after a UCLA win last year: “Arizona came into UCLA 2Day Barking @ tip-off like a buncha short bus gangsters & got TORCHED 71-49 #FAKESwag @UofA @UCLAAthletics” You tell ‘em, Urkel.
Ashley Judd (Kentucky)
The gold standard when it comes to celebrity college basketball fans. A 1990 UK graduate, Judd is a regular at home and away Kentucky games and even the team locker room. Regularly interacting with current players on Twitter, she once penned an article for Sports Illustrated explaining her love for Kentucky basketball in which she wrote that after an injury prevented her from performing on Broadway one time, her first thought was that she could attend more Wildcat games. Judd may be one of the most beautiful people alive but she’s just like everyone else in Kentucky: Completely crazy for UK basketball. And you wonder why Kentucky gets all the best recruits?