Tuesday, July 20

Sometimes You Forget: Shawn Kemp

When people say Shawn Kemp's name nowadays the image of a bloated, substance-abusing, reproducing man with legal troubles is what comes to mind. However, I prefer to think of Shawn in his glory days, as the Reign Man in Seattle. Sadly, much like the NBA in Seattle, Shawn has faded away. As is our duty now and then, we remind you of something in the sports world you may have forgotten. This is what Shawn was at his best:

Fitting that the video was set to another Seattle 90s mainstay, Pearl Jam. Shawn had a LeBron James physique. He was 6'10", 240 pounds at his peak and his athletic ability was off the charts. It allowed him to be able to handle the ball coast to coast, block balls way above the rim, and dunk with absolute ferocity. I have stated before I believe Dominique to be the best in-game dunker of all-time and I believe Shawn is right behind him. He finished second to Dee Brown in the 1991 Dunk Contest because Brown wowed everyone by pumping up his Reeboks. Kemp did a dunk from one step inside the free-throw line with his leg cocked up almost touching his elbow and only got a 48. Kemp won that contest. Kemp would regularly dangle from the rim like he was hanging from a chandelier after being lobbed a pass from Gary Payton that either originated 5 feet away or the halfcourt line. His dunks had an attitude, you could hear the rim wail in pain when he threw it down, as poor Arnold Lister found out in number 1 in the below top ten.

Shawn's performance in the Sonic years was not only solid during the season (around 17.5 and 10) but he played even better in the playoffs. The Sonics had many crushing playoff defeats during their impressive run but rarely could the brunt of that be laid on Kemp. In 1996, the 64-win Sonics made the Finals, but unfortunately ran into the 72-win Chicago Bulls that are the often considered the greatest team of all-time. The Sonics pushed the Bulls to 6 games but could not do the impossible. Kemp averaged 23.3 points per game and was in double figure in rebounds 4 of the 6 games. Kemp even had a nice present for Scottie Pippen.

After the luster of the Finals wore off, Kemp was discouraged by his paltry salary compared to other perennial All-Stars. When Jim McIlvaine is making more than you, it gets under your skin. Kemp of course handled it in the manner of a man who lived on the edge and was about to fall off it: he refused to play. He was traded to the Cavs in their era of the blue and black swirley uniforms. Kemp averaged 18.7, 20.5, 17.8 in his three seasons in Cleveland but his problems were beginning to mount. It was beginning of the end. Yet like a woman who was smoking in her 20s and loses her looks in her 30s due to body neglect, late-night partying, child births, and the slow decline of the genetic amino acid sequences, I prefer to look upon Shawn as his days of glory.


gerakis100 said...

Nothing better than the "Lister Blister"

Cleet said...

Chris Gatling giving him 5 after getting serviced is up there, but the Lister point is the best no doubt.