Shawn Kemp is one of the most spectacular players in NBA history, and his coach once described him as better than Michael Jordan. Various injuries, however, prevented a greater career.
After the return from Real Madrid, George Karl finally built the most atypical team of the decade with two young superstars. While the other teams frequently shifted the focus of their offense to the low post, Seattle loved the transition game.
“I threw the ball up, and then it’s like rain pouring down from the sky.” Gary Payton, who joined Kemp and the Sonics in 1990, quickly recognized the merits of his new teammate and, together with the Reign Man, The Glove formed one of the most spectacular duos of the 90s.
Opponents were often trapped, Sonics forces them to quick ball loss and then the rest was done by Payton and Kemp. But not only were they spectacular
If the Chicago Bulls were in the finals, Michael Jordan took over. MJ decided games, he decided series, a total of six times. In short: He was the best player of any finals appearance of his Bulls, the MVP. Always. Always? “He was the best player on the court. Nobody can say otherwise” said George Karl after his Sonics were defeated by Bulls in six games.
But he did not mean about Jordan, Karl spoke of Shawn Kemp. Admittedly, it would be nothing new for one’s own coach to praise one of his protégés a little too much in the sky. Maybe Karl did that too. He certainly was not alone in his opinion. Kemp scored 23 points and 10 rebounds during the finals, hitting 55 percent of his shots. The Reign Man dominated. Thanks to his athleticism, thanks to his power and high basketball IQ.
Later on, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Weight, drugs and alcohol problems, at least seven children from six different women. No longer the Reign Man.
From Cleveland he went to Portland, then to Orlando and finally to Italy. Nobody saw anymore the old Shawn Kemp. His last comeback attempt was in 2006 and it wasn’t successful. After the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City, his jersey wasn’t retired.
He now lives in Seattle and successfully runs a restaurant there. “I’ve found that if something goes wrong, you should not seek the mistake from others” he says. “It’s always up to you.” Words that are at least as intriguing as the Reign Man was.