A product of Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, 19-year-old Shawn Kemp was selected 17th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1989 NBA draft and jumped straight to the league. One of the most versatile players of his day, Kemp could fill the cup in a variety of ways. A 6x All-Star (5 with Seattle), Kemp was known for his overwhelming athleticism and ferocious dunks. His tendency to play above-the-rim paved the way for the rim-running bigs of the 2000’s and 2010’s. However, Kemp also boasted an above-average mid-range game for a big man and could fade into jumpers with stellar touch.
Over the course of his career, Kemp was named to the All-NBA Second Team 3 times (1994-1996) and was a consensus top 10/borderline top 5 player for the duration of his prime. From 1991-1997, Kemp averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game on 52% shooting along with nearly 2 blocks. Along with lob partner Gary Payton, he was the centerpiece of the mid-90’s Sonics teams that won 55+ games in 6 straight seasons (the first 5 under Kemp). Despite losing the series, he was easily the best player in the 1996 finals behind 23/10 and 2 blocks per game on 55% shooting, outperforming Michael Jordan throughout the series.
Nicknamed the “Reign Man” by Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro, Kemp’s powerful style and passion for the game endeared him to Sonics fans. At his apex, Kemp was so dominant that his peak is very arguably the greatest in Sonics history.