In this article we will share the Life and Career of Louie Dampier who some believe is the greatest University of Kentucky Guard in history.
I loved watching Louie Dampier as a kid. When we were playing on our drive way hoop by brother was Issel and I was Dampier. Was he the greates guard in UK basketball history? It is kind of hard to compare the game back then to the game then and I am sure many John Wall and Kyle Macy , De”Aaron Fox and Rex Chapman & Dirk Minnifield fans may have trouble classifying him as the greatest guard ever at UK. However when I was six years old there had never been one better than Louie Dampier according to my grandad.
Indianapolis born Louie Dampier is one of the basketball legends that many University of Kentucky fans had the opportunity follow. Born on November 20, 1944, Dampier is one of the most celebrated and revered basketball players in college basketball history. Six foot tall, Louie Dampier played the point guard position. Although his height screams tall for some people, he was loving called “Little Louie” by many of his much taller team mates.
He is well known by all American basketball fans as he is just one of the few pro players in history who have played all nine seasons for the American Basketball Association (ABA) with the Kentucky Colonels. He is also acknowledged as just one player other than him has played all nine ABA seasons with the same team. Other than Dampier, it was Byron Beck of the Denver Rockets (later Denver Nuggets) who stuck with one team for all games of all seasons with the ABA. Just like his Hall of Fame teammate Dan Issel, Dampier was also coached by well-celebrated Coach Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky.
In the year 1976, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the American Basketball Association (ABA) merged. From the year 1976 to 1979 Dampier played three more seasons with San Antonio Spurs in the NBA.
Louie Dampier was a sports enthusiast right from his childhood. He did his schooling from the Southport High School, a public high school, in the suburbs of Southport, Indiana. His foundation for sports and his interest in basketball was developed during his school days. A legend in the making, he played in the Kentucky – Indiana high school all star game that featured top players from high schools across Kentucky and Indiana.
While in the University of Kentucky, Dampier was a two sport athlete playing baseball and basketball. In 1966, under the guidance of Coach Adolph Rupp, Dampier along with a few other team players led the team Rupp’s Runts to play the NCAA championship game. This was a watershed game – meaning an interactive, educational game to spread awareness and brought about the end of racial segregation in college basketball. Rupp’s Runts however, lost this match to Texas Western College.
During his time, freshmen were not allowed to play varsity sports. However, in the three years that he played, Dampier was named Academic All-SEC two times and Academic All-American once. In his three years at the University of Kentucky, he was also selected twice in the All-American selection and three times in the All-Southeastern Conference. He graduated the university in the year 1967 and was the third highest scorer in UK basketball history at the time with 1,575 points.
Out of college, he was selected by both NBA and ABA. The Kentucky Colonels selected him in the ABA draft and then Cincinnati Royals, now called the Sacramento Kings, had selected Dampier in the 4th round of the NBA draft. Dampier chose the ABA and teamed with Darel Carrier. They were a hand-in-glove team and complemented each other well. They both averaged 20 points per game in the first three seasons of ABA. The three point field goal was a specialty of both these players: Dampier and Carrier. Carrier was the sniper in Kentucky’s team and Dampier was the machine gun.
However, Dampier scored a record breaking 794 3 point field goals in his career with ABA. Of the 793 3-point field goals, 500 of them were made during his three year stretch 199 during the ‘68-69 season, 198 during ‘69-70 season and 103 from 1970 to 1971. The master of 3-point shots, in his words, “never saw a 3-point shot I didn’t like.” Of his three major professional basketball records, two of them stood for a combined 48 years.
The last season between 1970 – 1971 saw Dampier setting another amazing record. He hit 57 consecutive free throws. This became a pro record then for both ABA and NBA. Dampier’s rookie year coincides with inception of the league. That is Louie Dampier became the member of the newly established Kentucky colonels team.
Dampier’s other achievements include finishing the first all-time ABA games. The total numbers of games played were 728 for a total of 27,770 minutes, with a total of 13,726 points and 4,044 assists. He was 7 times ABA All-Star. Therefore, the natural unanimous choice for ABA’s Top 30 team. Dampier was an ace shooter from the corner and deadly scorer on the open floor. It was as though his aim was to get the ball and score at every chance. To quote Dampier, “I am never one to take bad shots,” he said.
The match of 1975, where Dampier fed the ball to Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore led the Kentucky Colonels to victory by defeating the Indiana Pacers and winning the franchise’s only ABA championship.
San Antonio Spurs, one of the four teams that joined NBA after the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, selected Dampier to join the team. Dampier scored an average of 6.7 points in 232 NBA games as a role player behind “the Iceman” George Gervin. Louie Dampier completed his twelve-year professional basketball career with the San Antonio Spurs. He went on to become the assistant coach of the Denver Nuggets and carried on this role for three and a half years. Dan Issel nudged Dampier to becoming the assistant coach of the Denver Nuggets. Issel was the head coach of the team. At 55 years of age, Issel says, Dampier would still be able to shoot the ball as well as he did when he was 25.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, an American Hall of Fame and history museum in Massachusetts has included Dampier as a member in 2015.
Dampier has a funny story to share as to how he found out he was going to the Hall of Fame in 2015. Judy, Dampier’s wife and her sister were out shopping when she received a text from her son, Nick, asking her to congratulate him. For what she remembers asking him. Nick replied back saying for making it to the American Hall of Fame. It was February 14, 2015, and Louie, aged 70, now a grandfather to five, missed the news himself from the television as he was vacuuming and it was too loud.
The American Basket Ball Association had elected Louie to the Hall of Fame. This news was however met with a question instead of outright appreciation. And the question was why did it take so long? Louie Dampier on finding out the news was naturally overwhelmed and when asked who he has selected as the hall of fame presenter, he informed the press then that he hadn’t informed the person in question yet, but it is Dan Issel.
Louie Dampier was the first person born in Indianapolis to make it to the Hall of fame.
Louie Dampier’s number 10 jersey was retired by the University of Kentucky in 1992. He was included in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. Dampier has recently also made it to the list of 15 greatest shooters of all times released by the CBS.
Even at 60 years of age, Dampier hadn’t forgotten his game. He would, still wearing his dress shoes, still hit consecutive 3-pointers non-stop in his patentent machine gun style. The ball he shot to the net always landed with a swoosh that was because he managed to make the ball spin till it hit got to the basket.
Dan Issel a hall of famer himself, has verified the swoosh. He said the swoosh may or may not be audible during the games, but was surely audible during the warm-ups. It may be noted that Dampier had poor eyesight and to make up for it George Mikan, the then ABA commissioner created the famous red – blue – white basketball in the ‘60s. This new ball was a blessing for the shooters as it made it more visible to them from a distance. Dampier personally enjoyed the back spin especially when it came on the red-blue-white ball.
It is especially important to give credit to the Kentucky basketball players who have us the traditiona and history we all enjoy today. The put in the work and gave their time and effort into perfecting the game. Their history and achievements must never be forgotten as these have been the foundation stones on which the basketball game has evolved today.
Due to the lack of media and technological advancements, legends like Dampier have probably missed out on a great deal of limelight. However, the records that these great men have made have a long lasting story to tell and must be told, rightfully so. Far from the days of analytics or the Math behind the sport, Dampier’s generation of players shot the ball because that’s all the game was to them and because that’s what put the points in the scoreboard. The players of the yesteryears earned fame and admiration through sheer hard work, sweat and blood put on the court.
Louie Dampier will always be remembered as one of the many great success stories in Kentucky basketball history.