Shawn Travis Kemp (born November 26, 1969) is an American retired professional basketball player, who played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 14 seasons. He was a six-time NBA All-Star and a three-time All-NBA Second Team member.
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Kemp in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft. Although extremely athletic, Kemp was young and struggled to find his place in the NBA. At the time, he was the youngest player in the NBA. In his first season in Seattle, Kemp was mentored heavily by teammate Xavier McDaniel. As the season progressed, so did Kemp’s desire to learn and become better, which propelled him into stardom. Kemp finally began to find his place in the NBA as a star during his second season with the Sonics. Together with Gary Payton, Eddie Johnson, Ricky Pierce and Nate McMillan, they became a highly successful squad. After Kemp’s second NBA season, he picked up the nickname “Reign Man” after Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro saw a poster with the name and found it fitting to add to his radio broadcasts.
Kemp signed a contract extension with the Sonics in 1994. The league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) precluded any adjustment to that contract until October 1997. He eventually became outraged, despite his agent, Tony Dutte, clearly understanding that contract renegotiating, and even discussions of renegotiation, was explicitly forbidden by the league until 1997 it also didn’t help that the Sonics signed Jim McIlvaine to a seven-year $33.6 million contract. In spite of this oft-forgotten fact concerning CBA rules and restrictions, Kemp threatened to refuse to play in the upcoming 1996-97 season and inexplicably held out of training camp for 22 days despite that Kemp still helped led the Sonics to another 50 plus win season as they despatched the Phoenix Suns in five games in the first round only to lose to the Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler-led Houston Rockets in a hard fought seven game series in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Following the 1996–1997 season, Kemp was part of a blockbuster trade sending him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks forward Vin Baker to the Sonics, and Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill from the Cavaliers to the Bucks.
Kemp played three seasons with the Cavaliers, where he battled extreme weight problems and often appeared to lack the drive that made him such a force in Seattle. Despite this, he posted career-high numbers for points per game in 1997-98 and led the Cavaliers to the NBA Playoffs where they faced the Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers, the Cavaliers would however lose to the Pacers in four games despite Kemp averaging 26 points with 13 rebounds a game in the series (including a 31-point, 7 rebound performance in game three).
He was then traded to the Portland Trail Blazers after the 1999–2000 season. The trade reunited Kemp with Bob Whitsitt, who had originally brought Kemp to Seattle. However, Kemp’s play began to decline significantly. The last few years of Kemp’s professional basketball career were riddled with problems stemming from his weight, as well as cocaine and alcohol abuse. His first season in Portland ended early when he entered drug rehabilitation.
After two seasons with the Blazers, Kemp was waived prior to the 2002–03 season.
He was signed as a free agent for the Orlando Magic, and helped the Magic reach the playoffs despite the loss of starting small forward Grant Hill. During his one season in Orlando, Kemp played in his 1000th NBA game. In their first round series, the Magic took an early three games to one lead before losing to the Detroit Pistons in seven games. Following the 2002–03 season, Shawn Kemp was replaced by free agent forward Juwan Howard.
In April of the 2005-06 NBA season, Kemp’s NBA comeback chances looked promising. The eventual Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks considered adding Kemp to their roster in time for the NBA playoffs. Mavs’ coach, and former Sonic teammate, Avery Johnson scheduled a personal workout to take place in Houston, where Kemp trained for several months. However, Kemp failed to appear because of undisclosed reasons.
During halftime of a November 5, 2006 Sonics game, Kemp was announced as one of the 16 members of the Seattle SuperSonics’ 40-year anniversary team. After having the longest ovation of all the players, Kemp said after the celebration that he would play with a team in Rome and was still considering a comeback to the NBA. Kemp, however, did not secure a position on an NBA roster during the 2006–07 season.
On August 18, 2008, Kemp signed a one-year contract with Premiata Montegranaro of Italian League. Despite being almost 39, he was said to be in good shape. The Premiata deal came about by the good relationship between Kemp and Roberto Carmenati, the new Team Director of Montegranaro. Kemp reported to the team, played in three preseason games and then returned to Houston to assess his home for damage from Hurricane Ike. Kemp and Premiata Montegranaro decided to part ways, and the contract was rescinded.
He played for the US national team in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto, winning the gold medal. He also appeared in MTV’s Rock N’ Jock annual celebrity basketball game.
Career highlights and awards
6× NBA All-Star (1993–1998)
3× All-NBA Second Team (1994–1996)
McDonald’s All-American (1988)
Career NBA statistics
Points 15,347 (14.6 ppg)
Rebounds 8,834 (8.4 rpg)
Blocks 1,279 (1.2 bpg)
Men’s basketball Competitor for United States
FIBA World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1994 Canada National team