Shawn Kemp remembers the 1996 NBA finals: ‘We had Michael rattled’
1996 NBA FINALS

Shawn Kemp remembers the 1996 NBA finals: ‘We had Michael rattled’

Legendary NBA player and one of the best highflyers in NBA history, Shawn Kemp, made a guest appearance on the Inside Buzz podcast, where he talked about multiple things from his illustrious career. While playing for the Seattle Supersonics alongside his teammate Gary Payton the team was a legitimate powerhouse in the NBA for a few years in a row, which eventually landed them in a position to fight for an NBA championship in 1996 against none other than the legendary 72-10 Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan.

The Bulls beat the Sonics in six games; however, one of the most memorable moments from that series was a direct matchup between Gary Payton and Jordan. Jordan was destroying the Sonics throughout the first three games, and then Payton, who was struggling with injuries, insisted he guards Jordan for the remainder of the series in hopes to change things around for his squad. Payton was actually extremely successful in slowing down Jordan in the three games he was covering him, even though Jordan later said that wasn’t really the case.

Kemp acknowledges that Jordan would never admit someone was able to slow him down the way Payton did, even though the numbers show Payton did a tremendous job guarding him during those three games. In the first three games, Jordan scored 32 points per game, shooting almost 50 percent from the field, but when Payton took over that assignment, he limited Jordan to only 23.6 points on 37 percent from the field.

Michael said Gary wasn’t giving him good defense. That’s a joke. We had Michael rattled, but that’s MJ; he’ll never let you know. Gary was injured, but George Karl made the worst decision putting Detlef Schrempf on MJ in the finals.

Shawn Kemp, via Inside Buzz

For Kemp personally, going up against the Bulls wasn’t a big deal because he felt comfortable going up against Rodman, Pippen, Kukoc, and other bigs on the Bulls squad. Kemp was truly sensational against the Bulls, averaging 23.3 points on 55.1% shooting, adding 10 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.0 blocks in 40.3 minutes per game. Kemp was motivated and did everything in his power to beat the Bulls but going up against such a legendary team was too big of a challenge not just for Kemp but other great teams and players in the NBA at that time.

It was very easy for me, and seriously I had fun playing against those guys. You go through your career playing basketball, and you look for opportunities to let people know who you are what you stand for. Not every day you get a chance to play against someone like Michael Jordan in the finals, so when you get those moments, you really want to be successful and do well as possible. Those are things that are going to stick with you forever. For me to have the opportunity to play against him and Chicago Bulls was great; it was a big challenge, and I was looking forward to it the whole series.

Shawn Kemp, via Inside Buzz