After an eight-year run with the SuperSonics, Shawn Kemp got traded to Cleveland in a three-way deal with the Milwaukee Bucks that involved all-star forward Vin Baker of the Bucks and all-star guard Terrell Brandon of the Cavaliers.
Before the deal went down, Kemp talked about ‘never wearing the Sonics uniform again.’ But the cold city of Cleveland was far from his preferred destination. Going from a 60+ win team, to a team with 4 rookies and no established star-player was a huge drop off for Kemp. And while he would’ve eventually adjusted to Ohio weather, getting adjusted to losing was something Shawn was never able to do.
You realize that it takes a lot more concentration, a lot more focus to play basketball. Basketball is not as fun anymore ’cause you’re not winning. Winning is what makes basketball fun.Shawn Kemp, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network
And so, after accumulating 102 wins over three seasons with the Cavs, Kemp became the centerpiece of a five-player trade that had him joining the Portland Trail Blazers. And Reign Man loved it. The only problem was, they were overloaded with talent. Guys like Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Scottie Pippen, Arvydas Sabonis were on the team, and as Shawn said it, ‘there wasn’t enough basketballs for all.’
Our practices were tougher than our basketball games because we had better guys on our team than what we were playing against.Shawn Kemp, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network
Kemp spent 2 seasons in Portland as a veteran off the bench, playing in 143 regular-season games and helping the team make the playoffs in two consecutive years. But both times, they ran into the champions to be in LA Lakers, having two of Kemp’s postseason runs with the Blazers end in the first round.
In the summer of ’02, Kemp’s contract with Portland was up, and he decided to take his talents to Florida and join the Orlando Magic as the final step in his 14-year-NBA career. But this was no farewell outing for Reign Man. He joined one of the most promising collections of talent in the entire association as the guy to help them get over the top. But like most teams with Tracy McGrady on the roster, the Orlando Magic’s 02/03 run was marked with injuries that put a cap on how far they could’ve gone in the postseason.
We could’ve done well. If Grant could’ve stayed healthy, we would’ve been a pretty good team.Shawn Kemp, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network
But Hill only played 29 games, and Orlando’s season was cut short after a seven-game first-round exit to the Detroit Pistons. And that was the end of the NBA road for Shawn Kemp – one of the greatest dunkers in the league history, and the guy who was a crucial part of Seattle’s run in the ’90s. Nothing he had done after that matched his eight-year run with the Sonics.