Mark these words. Years from now, in one of science’s great discoveries in history, the world will learn Shawn Kemp was one third human, one third pogo-stick and one third Mack Truck.
Instead of focusing on the obvious question marks around Kemp’s career – you know what, hold on, we will jump into that for one minute.
There’s no convincing me otherwise that Kemp, Gary Payton and the Supersonics wouldn’t been a Finals contender every year in the back half of the ’90s had they merely decided to pay the man the money many felt he deserved. Do note, this came following a superstar-worthy regular season (20-11-2 blocks) and final three games of ’96 Finals.
Instead, Jim McIlvanie received a $35 million contract that summer, which guaranteed the reserve center with career averages of 2.3 points and 2.9 rebounds would make more than Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Mitch Richmond and, of course, Shawn Kemp. And people think egregious contracts began when David Kahn justified giving Darko Milicic $20 million (in 2010!) and compared him to Vlade Divac and Chris Webber within a five minute span – to Chris Webber’s face? Owners have been sucking their own Hennessy-flavored tit for years now.
McIlvaine told Sports Illustrated in November 1996, “Teachers and parents should be making a lot more, and athletes should probably be making a lot less. Does it make sense that I’m making this much money? Of course not. But no one in this league can really say they deserve the money they’re making except for maybe Michael Jordan.”
In a sense, he was right, but from there a potential Sonics run was 187’d all because Seattle had a knee-jerk reaction partially in part to Shaq moving to Los Angeles that same summer. An upset and semi-betrayed Kemp played one more season with the Sonics before being swapped for Vin Baker. Before anyone noticed, the Utah Jazz were the team to beat out West because the Dream/Barkley/Clyde trio couldn’t get over the hump and Tim Duncan had yet to arrive in San Antonio. So, yes, a dream deferred.*
Anywho, shifting back to the positive and why we’re all here in the first place, Shawn Kemp was a dog (perhaps in more than one way, but whatever) and a direct inspiration for the popularity and success of NBA Jam. If Vince Carter, Dominique Wilkins and Tracy McGrady received the coveted distinction for their mid-air spectacles, logic says The Reignman was due. There’ll never been a concrete “Top 10 Dunks” list from buddy’s career, but this official NBA-compiled clip does an honorable job in doing so.
The Gatling dunk, the full court cock back execution on the Lakers, the double clutch middle of the lane on the Knicks and the one you’re all thinking of…they’re all included. So, yes, it’s time to play the drinking game again, kids. Take a double shot every time the phrase “OH SHIT!” is blurted out.
Good luck making it past #6.
* – To be honest, the window had been open, but as we’ve seen with the present day Thunder and possibly Pacers, it takes years to breakthrough. They lost in the ’93 West Finals in Game 7 behind Charles Barkley’s best game ever (and 64 Phoenix free throws, huh?), swept in ’94 by the Nuggets in the infamous “8 beats 1” series and lost in the first round in ’95 to the Lakers. In other words, it’s “levels to this shit” like Meek Mill said. I think that applies here.