One of the most prominent and electrifying players from the ’90s is Shawn Kemp, who is forever linked with Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics. As a dynamic duo, Kemp and Payton brought crowds to their feet for almost a decade before Kemp’s career went south after numerous problems in his private life. Nevertheless, every Seattle Supersonics fans remember the amount of passion Kemp had when stepping on the basketball court against some of the best big men in the NBA at that time.
In an interview on the What’s the Skinny Episode, Kemp shared what he thinks is missing in today’s league among this generation of NBA players. Kemp believes the players themselves don’t enjoy the game as much as he and Payton did back in the day. According to Kemp, the younger generation of players doesn’t smile on the court as much. That affects the energy that is portrayed in front of the fans who are watching the game, which means their level of enjoyment and involvement in the game.
“The difference between now and back then is that me and Gary were able to play with a smile on our faces. Some players today forget that it’s okay to smile; you have to smile. People enjoy the game of basketball, so if you’re not smiling, the fans are not going to smile. You can’t go around mean-mugging everybody at every game.”Shawn Kemp
It’s impossible to measure someone’s passion for the game, and it’s a somewhat pointless debate; however, there are evident differences between the era when Kemp played and today. The game was much different in how it was played, and today’s players are more empowered to be more than just a basketball player, which wasn’t the case back in the ’90s. There were always players who had a tremendous passion for the game, which was their only focus throughout their careers. Simultaneously, others wanted to do other things alongside their time in the NBA, which sometimes negatively affected their performance on the court.