Shawn T. Kemp
November 26, 1969 in Elkhart, Indiana
Concord (Elkhart, Indiana)
Trinity Valley Community College (1988-1989)
Seattle SuperSonics, 17th overall, 1989 NBA Draft
6-10 ; Weight
The Reign Man
G - 1051
FG% - .488
3PFG% - .277
FT% - .741
Points - 15,347
PPG - 14.6
Rebounds - 8,834
RPG - 8.4
Assists - 1,704
APG - 1.6
Blocks - 1,279
BPG - 1.2
Steals - 1,185
SPG - 1.1
6 x NBA All-Star, 3 x All-NBA Second Team, 1994 FIBA World Championship Gold Medalist, 1988 McDonald's All-American
High School and College
Kemp attended Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana. He was considered to be one of the top four or five players nationally his senior year, and led his team to the state championship finals. Kemp finished third for the state's coveted Mr. Basketball award (behind Woody Austin and Chandler Thompson). Some felt that Kemp was snubbed because he chose to play college ball outside the Hoosier State. Kemp scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic, and scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the McDonald's Game. During his senior year, Kemp signed a national letter-of-intent to play basketball at the University of Kentucky. However, he left the team in November 1988 after he was accused of pawning two gold chains that had been reported stolen from his teammate Sean Sutton, the son of then Kentucky head coach Eddie Sutton. Sean Sutton did not press charges, but Kemp transferred to Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. After a semester at TVCC, where he did not play, 19-year-old Shawn Kemp declared himself eligible for the 1989 NBA Draft.
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Kemp in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft and he quickly became a force to be reckoned with. Kemp was one of the NBA's premier high flyers with outstanding leaping abilities. At the time, he was the youngest player in the NBA. Half-court lob passes from Gary Payton to Kemp became a regular sight. Together with Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins and Nate McMillan, they became a highly successful squad. After Kemp's second NBA season, he picked up the nickname "Reign Man" after Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro saw a poster with the name and found it fitting to add to his radio broadcasts.
He played for the US national team in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto, winning the gold medal. He also appeared in MTV's Rock 'N' Jock annual celebrity basketball game, where he dunked upon a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kemp's career peaked in 1995–96, when he led the Sonics to a franchise-record 64 wins and their first NBA Finals appearance since 1979. They faced Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, who were coming off an NBA record 72 wins. The Sonics managed to push the heavily favored Bulls to six games before losing. In the finals, Kemp posted per game averages of 23.3 points on 55% shooting from the field, 10.0 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Kemp, having signed a long-term contract before the rapid increase in NBA salaries, was earning substantially less than most players of his repute. He was outraged when Sonics management denied Kemp's request for a raise, while offering Jim McIlvaine, a five-year, $35 million contract. Kemp threatened to refuse to play in the upcoming season, and the resulting tension with management eventually led to a blockbuster three-team trade following the 1996–1997 season that sent Kemp to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks forward Vin Baker to the Sonics, and Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill from the Cavaliers to the Bucks.
Kemp played three seasons with the Cavaliers, where he battled weight problems and often appeared to lack the drive that made him such a force in Seattle. Despite this, he posted career-high numbers for points per game.
During the lockout shortened 1998–1999 NBA season, Kemp reportedly showed up to training camp weighing 275 pounds. Though unable to shed the weight, Kemp still managed to average 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds. But again, he was not in the same explosive form that he was known for.
He was then traded to the Portland Trail Blazers after the 1999–2000 season. The trade reunited Kemp with Bob Whitsitt, who had originally brought Kemp to Seattle. However, Kemp's play began to decline significantly. The last few years of Kemp's professional basketball career were riddled with problems stemming from his weight, as well as cocaine and alcohol abuse. His first season in Portland ended early when he entered drug rehabilitation.
After two seasons with the Blazers, Kemp was waived prior to the 2002–03.
He was signed as a free agent for the Orlando Magic, and helped the Magic reach the playoffs despite the loss of starting small forward Grant Hill. During his one season in Orlando, Kemp played in his 1000th NBA game. In their first round series, the Magic took an early three games to one lead before losing to the Detroit Pistons in seven games. Following the 2002–03 season, Shawn Kemp was replaced by free agent forward Juwan Howard.
In April of the 2005-06 NBA season, Kemp's NBA comeback chances looked promising. The eventual Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks considered adding Kemp to their roster in time for the NBA playoffs. Mavs' coach, and former Sonic teammate, Avery Johnson scheduled a personal workout to take place in Houston, where Kemp trained for several months. However, Kemp failed to appear because of undisclosed reasons. The two parties tried to re-schedule a workout but the NBA refused to grant Dallas an injury exception (for a 16th player). Ultimately Kemp did not get a second chance to join the Mavs that season.
In June 2006, 3 months after a drug arrest, the Denver Post reported that Kemp had slimmed down to the playing weight of his all-star days and was determined to join an NBA team, possibly the Denver Nuggets, and finish his career "the right way." The Nuggets ultimately turned their attention away from Kemp, signing power forward Reggie Evans. Kemp drew some interest from the Chicago Bulls in September 2006, but missed his scheduled workout to visit an ailing relative instead.
During halftime of a November 5, 2006 Sonics game, Kemp was announced as one of the 16 members of the Seattle SuperSonics' 40-year anniversary team. After having the longest ovation of all the players, Kemp said after the celebration that he would play with a team in Rome and was still considering a comeback to the NBA. Kemp, however, did not secure a position on an NBA roster during the 2006–07 season.