Whatever Happened to Shawn Kemp, The Superest of Sonics?
When I asked EB’s Ray Porreca whom he’d like to see for this week’s “Whatever Happened To…?”, he immediately responded with former NBA star Shawn Kemp. When I say, “immediately responded”, I mean it was like he already knew what I was going to ask him. So here we go…
For anyone who paid even a little attention to the NBA in the 90s, Shawn Kemp was almost as common a name as Michael Jordan. A 6’10’’ center with tremendous upside, Kemp spent the prime of his career with the Seattle Sonics before fizzling out, but more on that later. Prior to the NBA, Kemp had committed to playing for Kentucky, but because he got an SAT score of 700, he was not able to play for the Wildcats under the NCAA’s guidelines. Reflect on that for a second. He got a 700 out of a possible 1600 at the time. I mean, he got like, 200 points just for writing his name, assuming he got that right.
He then left the team in 1988 after pawning two gold chains that had been reported stolen by a Wildcat teammate who happened to be the son of the coach. Kemp then transferred to Trinity Valley Community College in Texas where he never played a single game. After one semester at TVCC, he declared for the NBA draft at the age of 19.
The Seattle Sonics drafted Kemp in the first round, 17th overall in a draft class that included Glen Rice and Tim Hardaway (4th and 14th, respectively) among others. At the time, Kemp was the youngest player in the NBA, and this showed on the court. His year of non-play between high school and professional levels caused him to struggle and find his place on the hardwood among experienced players. As the season progressed, Kemp’s desire to learn and improve helped propel him into stardom. Alongside Gary Payton, Kemp helped make the Sonics a force in the NBA.
He reached the peak of his career in the 1994-95 season, when he helped Sonics set a franchise record 64 wins. They went on to face the 72-win Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, losing in six games. During the series Kemp averaged 23 points on 55% shooting, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Also in 1994, he played in MTV’s Rock n Jock game, where he was teammates with Queen Latifah and future Oscar nominee Leonardo Dicaprio.
Things went south for Kemp after that season. He had previously signed a long-term contract before NBA salaries took a jump, so he was earning substantially less than most players of his caliber. Kemp threatened to sit out the upcoming season, and the resulting tension led to a three-team trade after the 1996-97 season. Kemp landed in Cleveland, but LeBron was only 13, so Cleveland still sucked.
During his three-year tenure with the Cavs, Kemp continuously battled weight issues, showing up to camp at 280 pounds after the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season (he previously weighed 245). Though General Manager Wayne Embry later revealed in his autobiography that Kemp reported to camp at 315 pounds. Embry went on to say that they hired nutritionists and put Kemp on a diet, but he didn’t have the discipline to stick to it. They even went so far as to hire a chef to prepare meals for him, but it didn’t work. Obviously with the money the Cavs spent on him (7 years, $98 million) they wanted him in playing shape, and who could blame them. Though unable/unwilling to shed the weight, Kemp still averaged 20 points and 9 boards for the Cavs, while leading them to a first-round playoff loss against the Indiana Pacers.
After the 1999-2000 season, Kemp was traded the Portland Trailblazers and his decline in play continued. His weight struggle took its toll and he quickly lost any explosiveness he had left. He also had problems with cocaine and alcohol, and his first season with the Blazers ended early when he entered drug rehab. He was waived from Portland after two seasons, and went on to play one more year in 2002-03 for the Orlando Magic before being replaced by Juwan Howard. He would go on to make a couple attempts to come back to the NBA, even slimming down to his All-Star weight, but was unable to secure a roster spot. He signed a one-year deal to play for an Italian team in Rome, but only played three pre-season games before he had to return to his home in Houston to assess damage from Hurricane Ike. He and the Italian team agreed to part ways and the contract was rescinded.
One of the biggest Shawn Kemp rumors is the large number of children he’s said to have with various women. Through serious and determined detective work, I’ve found multiple sources stating that he has seven kids with six different women, which makes him an easy target for women who want to try and make some money off of him with child support. He’s also had ongoing legal issues with drugs, having been arrested multiple times for cocaine and marijuana possession between 2005 and 2006.
As these will always end, here is a picture of Shawn Kemp as he appears today:
Also, here’s a video of the ten best dunks of his career, all before he decided to eat whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
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