If you are one of those NBA fans who still remember the early 2000s New Jersey Nets, there’s a great chance you are familiar with the name Keith Van Horn. With NBA Hall of Famer and 10-time All-Star Jason Kidd at the helm, the Nets reached the Finals in 2002. Indeed, J-Kidd was credited for that spectacular run, but in retrospect, Van Horn also played a significant role there.
A rare case
In fact, before Kidd became the face of the Nets franchise at the time, New Jersey belonged to Van Horn.
According to author Yaron Weitzman, New Jersey was coming off a terrible 56-loss season in 1997 and opted for Villanova’s Tim Thomas as their seventh overall pick in the draft. However, due to the fact that Thomas was from “Paterson, a rough city in Jersey,” the Nets thought playing close to his neighborhood would “hinder” his progress as a player. So they decided to immediately trade him for Keith Van Horn.
Van Horn did not waste time and swiftly made his presence felt on basketball’s biggest stage. In his first three seasons with the Nets, the 6-foot-10 forward delighted the fans with his sweet shooting and athleticism. He hovered around 20 points per game during that stretch and became the centerpiece of the then-rebuilding New Jersey squad. But while everything seemed perfect, former Nets head coach Byron Scott noticed something unusual from Van Horn.
Scott said that unlike other rising stars in the league, Van Horn did not have the urge to become a great player. Based on Scott’s description, Keith had what it takes, and he often “worked hard” during team practices and workouts. However, he “never” pushed himself to the limits.
“I think he was pretty satisfied with what he had,” Scott told Slam Online of Van Horn via Nets Daily. “He worked hard in practice, but he never went the extra mile. He seemed to be kind of fine with the skills that God gave him.”
There’s more than just being an NBA star
In the summer of 2002, after the Nets failed to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, Van Horn was traded to Philadelphia for Dikembe Mutombo. He played for three more teams in the league but never regained his phenomenal form in New Jersey.
In 2006, Van Horn suddenly decided to retire at 31 and said, “a major reason why I stopped playing so early was because my kids were older and I wanted to spend more time with them and my wife.”
Talent can only get you so far. For Van Horn, that was far enough.