One of the NBA’s finest power forwards of the 1990s, Shawn Kemp played 1,051 games in a 14-season career with four different franchises – but he is best remembered as the Seattle Supersonics’ driving force, along with the brilliant Gary Payton.
Born and raised in Indiana, Kemp did not attend college – failing to achieve the minimum SAT score required for him to take up a basketball scholarship at the University of Kentucky – and instead made himself available for the 1989 NBA Draft at the age of 19, where the Sonics snapped him up as the 17th pick overall.
Seattle had struggled for much of the 1980s, but with Kemp and Payton leading the way, the Supersonics soon emerged as a contender, taking the Phoneix Suns to seven games in the 1993 Western Conference Finals.
The 1995-96 Sonics reached the NBA Finals after producing a 64-18 regular-season record. They went down to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.
One of the most brutal and entertaining aerial specialists the NBA has seen, the 6’10” Kemp was among the most captivating and charismatic players of a halcyon era of basketball, and deservedly ranks alongside Payton as the most iconic player in Sonics history.
Many rate him as a better dunker than the likes of Jordan, Julius Irving and Vince Carter, though his best effort in the Dunk Contest was as runner-up to Dee Brown in 1991.
Kemp was a six-time NBA All-Star (1993-98), while he was named in the All-NBA Second Team from 1994-96. He spent three seasons with the Cavaliers and wound down his career with stints at the Trail Blazers and Magic, but he battled myriad off-court problems that somewhat tainted his legacy.
But it’s as a Seattle megastar in the #40 jersey that Kemp deserves to predominantly remembered. ‘Reign Man’, as he was affectionately known, still holds the Supersonics’ record for career blocks (also top-50 in NBA history), while he ranks second in franchise history for rebounds and fifth for points.
SHAWN KEMP – NBA CAREER OVERVIEW
Seattle Supersonics (1989-97)
Cleveland Cavaliers (1997-2000)
Portland Trail Blazers (2000-02)
Orlando Magic (2002-03)
Career Totals: 1,051 games; 15,347 points (14.6 ppg); 8,834 rebounds (8.4 rpg); 1,279 blocks (1.2 bpg).