The starting shooting guard for the University of Louisville Cardinals’ G.O.A.T. squad, otherwise known as the biggest no-brainer ever, Dr. Dunkenstein himself, Darrell Griffith.
Louisville 1976 – 1980
Darrell Griffith, a 6-4 guard, came to the Louisville program after finishing a stellar career at Male High School. Even before he was a prized recruit, Griffith was no secret.
Griffith was well known for being a freakish athlete long before he ever played a game for the Cards, particularly with his vertical jump. Griffith would play summer ball with several players from the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels.
One of the most famous stories from those pickup games involved Griffith and the legendary ABA/NBA star, Artis Gilmore. The summer before his FRESHMAN season at Male, Griffith drove the lane and dunked on the 7-2 Gilmore.
Let me repeat. Griffith, at fourteen years of age, dunked on 7-2 Artis Gilmore. For those who don’t know, Gilmore was a two-time AP All-American at Jacksonville and played 16 seasons in the ABA and NBA, including 6 NBA All-Star game appearances. Not exactly a scrub.
One of the most highly recruited players in the country, Griffith chose to play for the hometown team. During his press conference in which he announced for the Cardinals, Griffith promised to bring a national title to Louisville before he left. He delivered, and then some.
During his freshman season, Louisville fans finally got to see the man with the legendary reputation play. He had a good year and finished with an average of 12.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game.
His sophomore season showed improvement as he jumped to 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He was steady through his junior season and averaged 18.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
However, there were rumblings amongst Louisville fans about Griffith not delivering as much as expected. While his numbers were good, the team was not excelling in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to his senior season, the Cards had a 2-3 record in the Big Dance.
Griffith did not want to leave Louisville without a ring. He worked out vigorously, sometimes doing drills in old Crawford Gym at 1:00 am, prompting a worried security staff to call Coach Crum.
Crum’s response? “Who do you think gave him the key?”
Griffith had a great senior season. He still had his insane vertical ability, but now he was a better ball handler and defender as well. For his final season, Griffith averaged 22.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He also shot 55% from the field.
Those numbers were nice, but Griffith promised a national title. When the Cards entered the 1980 NCAA Tournament, Griffith was determined to bring one home.
After several close games to open the tournament, the Cards ran up against top seeded LSU. Many experts picked them to beat Louisville, and some said it would not be close. The Cards knew different.
Louisville pounded the Tigers 86-66 to reach the Final Four in ‘Naptown. After dispatching Iowa in the Final Four, the Cards defeated UCLA 59-54 for the school’s first national title. Griffith was named Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
Griffith fulfilled his promise and brought Louisville a national title. In honor of his career, Griffith’s number 35 was retired into the rafters at Freedom Hall. His road jersey sits on permanent display at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Here some of Griffith’s records/stats from his time at UofL:
- All-time leading scorer in school history with 2,333 points
- First player in school history to surpass the 2,000 point mark
- Holds the school record for most points in a single season with 825 points
- Two-time All-American (1978-79, 1979-80)
- Ranks third in school history in career dunks with 117
- All-time steal leader in school history with 230 steals
- Led Cards to a 101-25 record in his four seasons
- 1980 Wooden Award winner
- Recorded a standing vertical leap of 48 inches
Darrell Griffith was selected with the 2nd overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. Griffith kept rolling, averaged 20.6 points per game, and won the 1981 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Darrell played 10 seasons in the NBA, all with Utah, and averaged 16.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for his career. He finished with over 12,000 career points in the league before retiring in 1991 due to knee problems.
Griffith always considered himself a Louisvillian and returned to the ‘Ville every off-season. Naturally, when his career was over, he came back to Louisville.
Griffith is a promiment figure in the Louisville community, not just with the university, but the city. He is very active with local charities and can always be seen at several home basketball games.
Darrell Griffith is without question deserving of a starting spot on the Louisville G.O.A.T. squad. Now, here is a video of Dr. Dunkenstein doing what he did best: