HoopsHype Shawn Kemp rumors

December 5, 2011 Updates

Kemp was under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers when the start of the 1998-99 season was delayed by a lockout. When he showed up in January to prepare for the 50- game season, Kemp weighed in excess of 300 pounds, some 60 more than the previous season. “He was really very honest about it,” Mike Fratello, the Cavs coach at the time, recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I said, ‘Shawn, how did this happen?’ He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t think we were coming back.’” Atlanta Journal-Constitution

November 21, 2011 Updates
October 28, 2011 Updates

Just as they did against Utah two weeks earlier, the Sonics overcame a sluggish start but rally to force overtime. Shawn Kemp and Sam Perkins hit big shots in the extra session to help Seattle hold on for a 103-100 win and advance to the Western Conference finals. Seattle’s matchup against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns was nothing short of two heavyweights trading roundhouse punches. Neither team won two games in a row in the series, which came down to Game 7 in Phoenix on June 5. Looking at a box score 18 years later, Karl shakes his head. The Suns made a NBA record-tying 57 free throws. Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson combined to take 38 free throws, two more than the entire Sonics team, as Phoenix cruised to a 123-110 win. “I’m not commenting on either the officiating or the number of free throws,” Karl said after the game. “But we’re a team that has to get a flow going and we never could get a flow because of all the free throws. The only rhythm to the game was walking to the free-throw line.” NBA.com

October 23, 2011 Updates
October 16, 2011 Updates

The story of the 1998-99 Cavaliers serves as a reminder that great expectations can rapidly dissolve when a team and season are thrown out of rhythm. Instead of building on a playoff appearance a season earlier, the club was plagued by injuries, inconsistency and Kemp's ignominy. The 1998-99 Cavs finished with a 22-28 record, lost 10 of their last 11 games and alienated a fan base already angered by the labor unrest. "It quickly became a disastrous season, and it helped cost me and Wayne our jobs," Fratello said. "That lockout took its toll on a lot of people." Cleveland Plain Dealer

The lockout canceled the NBA summer league in 1998, just as it did this season. Once the season started, there was little time for practices or extended teaching sessions. "I think it's harder for the young guys because they don't know," Boykins said. "You can work out all you want. You can even work out against NBA guys. But until you get into an NBA training camp situation, it's totally different. That's the hardest part of the lockout. You can't prepare for an NBA training camp ... especially with the shortened camp." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Kemp, who could not be reached for this story, wasn't the only player to return out of shape. Vancouver's Bryant Reeves gained 40 pounds. Dennis Scott, Patrick Ewing and Oliver Miller all put on pounds. But it was Kemp who became the puffy face of the NBA lockout. "The franchise had a desire to have a superstar," retired Cavs broadcaster Joe Tait said of Kemp, who signed a renegotiated deal worth $100 million after joining the Cavs. "But if your star begins to look more like Jupiter than Mercury, then you have a problem." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Embry, a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, is prohibited from discussing any lockout. But in his book, "The Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA," he wrote about 1998-99 season: "Whatever teams were in the best shape would definitely have an advantage in the short schedule. We were not one of them. We were all disappointed in Shawn's physical condition. With the money we were paying him, we had every reason to expect him to stay in shape. It was not as if he could not afford to hire people to help him do that. "The Cleveland Clinic nutritionist put him on a diet, but Shawn did not have the discipline to adhere to it. We even offered to have a chef go to his house and prepare meals for him. ... I told Shawn the same thing I told Mel Turpin years ago, 'I don't want anyone playing for me that weighs more than me.' That did not work either." Cleveland Plain Dealer

October 15, 2011 Updates
October 10, 2011 Updates

Fourteen years after he left Seattle in a trade to Cleveland that followed an ugly contract squabble, Shawn Kemp is more visible in Seattle. And, once again, The Reign Man reigns. "It's so touching when you have a connection like this with the city," Kemp said last week, sitting in the back of his Lower Queen Anne restaurant, Oskar's Kitchen. "You see a reaction like that and it reminds me that the people here never got a chance to see enough of me. I never really thought I was anything special on the basketball court or anything special as a man, but the one thing I always thought I could do is give out an extra effort. "But what I'm really proud of now, is being able to get outside of basketball and still reach outside to the community and give the extra effort there like I gave on the court. When I hear the cheers now, or talk with people, it keeps me on a straight path." Seattle Times

All these years later, there may not be a more popular athlete in the city than Kemp. Wherever he goes, he is his own force field. At his restaurant, thirtysomethings tentatively ask him for his autograph and he generously poses for pictures. At his free clinics, kids come up to him as if he were LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, or some other superstar they regularly see on television. They know Kemp. They know his dunks. They watch them all the time on YouTube. Kemp's career still lives on the Internet. Seattle Times

After his NBA career, he lived in Houston, but always a part of him wanted to be in Seattle. He just wasn't sure Seattle wanted him. "Absolutely I was nervous about moving back. Absolutely, man," Kemp said. "I'm still nervous a little bit. I think, as an individual, when you look back and you question some of your judgments, you look at yourself and you try to change things. You try to better yourself. You try to be smarter." He came back six years ago, but only in the last couple of years has Kemp felt comfortable returning to a more public life. Seattle Times

He was embarrassed about his weight gain and how it affected his game. He was embarrassed about the Sports Illustrated story. He said he felt as if he were a target. He didn't know what direction to take his life. "I never abused drugs or had an alcohol problem," he said. "I had a Shawn Kemp problem. That's what you find out. When you're unhappy with yourself, you do unhappy things. I just expected so much of myself, and when those doors that were open to you fall down, you have to find yourself. "Sometimes we get labeled as being a bad person when we're not. I've never been a bad person. The only bad things I've really done, I've done to myself. I really hurt myself. I put myself in a very negative position. But when I looked at the Sports Illustrated story, well, some of my actions were negative. It was up to me to change things." Seattle Times

Of his nine kids, four live in Seattle. One son, Shawn Kemp Jr., will be a scholarship freshman on the University of Washington's basketball team. I asked him if he thought he was a good dad. "I'm a work in progress. My life will remain a work in progress for the rest of my life. But I think I'm a pretty good dad," Kemp said. "Obviously, I could be better. My kids say I'm a little bit strict and I say there's reasons for that. I'm on them, all of them, but I think I'm a fair dad and I think that I listen to them. "I wish I could have changed things around years ago, but I don't carry that around with me. It's not a burden on my shoulder. I don't walk around and think I shoulda, woulda, coulda. You can't dwell on the past, man. I had to learn how to move on. If you're always looking back behind you, you don't feel so good." Seattle Times

July 30, 2011 Updates

Among those kids from the state were Schrempf, Donaldson, Doug Christie, John Stockton, George Irving, Jamal Crawford, James Edwards, and more recently, Jason Terry, Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Aaron Brooks, Martell Webster, Marcus Williams and Rodney Stuckey. "You have pride that you have a team, but when all of that went down it broke my heart," said Hawkins, who was part of the team that played the Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. "It was disheartening in the fact that the fans were left out in the cold." "Hopefully, we'll get a team back because this city definitely deserves a team, with all tradition and history the Sonics have," he added. ESPN.com

July 8, 2011 Updates
June 30, 2011 Updates

Then-Cleveland coach Mike Fratello said goodbye to one version of Shawn Kemp in the summertime and said hello to a much-bigger version six months later, when the then-29-year-old who had signed a seven-year, $98 million deal in 1997 reportedly arrived at training camp weighing more than 300 pounds and was never the same in the years to come. With Thursday's news that a lockout is about to begin, Kemp is officially the cautionary tale that is now a concern for executives and coaches around the league in this restrictive and unforgiving labor landscape. "If you don't have veteran guys, the rookies are going to struggle [in a lockout]," said Brown, whose team improved in the lockout-shortened season and survived until the second round of the playoffs. "You have to have leadership that has everyone ready to go when the time comes because you can't afford to have guys playing into shape in training camp." SI.com

May 12, 2011 Updates

Kemp joined KJR in Seattle to talk about how tough it would be for him if the Thunder and Heat were to advance to this year’s NBA Finals, how he was offered the opportunity by the Thunder to come down to Oklahoma City and sit in the front row and be honored during the Thunder-Nuggets series, why he declined the offer without hesitation, being happy that he didn’t see Gary Payton take the Thunder up on the same offer, and how his buddies joked that he should have gone and worn a Sonics jersey. Where his rooting loyalties would lie if the Thunder were advance on to the Finals to play the Heat: “It’s going to be tough but let me tell you guys this…I live out here in Seattle, I’ll cary the Sonics in my heart for the rest of my life, but I have a problem rooting for Oklahoma. I just do. I was invited to the last game when they played against in Denver to sit in the front row. I can’t do it.” Sports Radio Interviews

On Gary Payton also declining similar offers from the Thunder: “I got to tell you the funny part about it. The funny part about it is this….I didn’t get a chance to call you guys but I was like ‘man, I hope I don’t turn this game on tomorrow night and see Gary sitting in the front row’. I knew it wasn’t going to happen that way and it wasn’t. I didn’t see any guys on the front row so they probably shot that down when they realized.” After the hosts joked that Payton might have gone just to play a joke on the Thunder organization, Kemp mentioned his buddies suggested he do something similar: “My buddies told me ‘you should have gone down there and put on your old Sonics uniform and sat in the front row.’” Sports Radio Interviews

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