Most of today’s younger NBA fans are probably aware who Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are. They are the high scoring duo of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that was formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics. Before the Sonics moved to a different city and had their name changed to the “Thunder”, they once had a pretty dynamic duo themselves in the form of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.
Known as the Reign Man, Kemp was famous for his high flying and powerful dunks, and his incredible athleticism. During his prime, he was one of the most exciting players in the league and stood out as a fan favorite among Sonics fans. He and Gary Payton helped make the Sonics a powerhouse in the Western Conference during the early to mid-1990’s.
Another thing that made Kemp a popular player back in the day were his emotional displays on the court. Each time he made a posterizing dunk against a taller defender, Kemp would always have something to say to his unlucky target. One of his famous poster dunks came against the Warrior’s Aldin Lister when he pointed to him after putting down a ferocious dunk that sent Lister to the floor.
Kemp would reach the NBA finals for the first and only time in his career in 1996 where they faced Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Sonics would end up losing to the Bulls in 6 games and this would be the closest that Kemp would come to winning a championship. Rumors of Kemp going someplace else were soon spreading after the 1996 season.
After failing to land an agreement with the Sonics management regarding his contract, Kemp was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three team trade that included the Milwaukee Bucks. Kemp would continue to be productive during his tenure with the Cavs posting up career high numbers in points per game. However, the drive that he once had while with the Sonics was no longer there and he was not as explosive as he used to be.
Kemp would battle problems with his weight during his 3 year stint with Cleveland and after being traded to the Portland Trailblazers during the 1999-2000 season Kemp’s demons would eventually catch up with him. Apart from battling weight issues, he also had an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and because of this his skills declined for good.
But despite all of this, most basketball fans will always remember Shawn Kemp for being one of the league’s most exciting players and one who helped put the Sonics franchise on the map during the 90’s.