Seattle SuperSonics Legend Shawn Kemp On Almost Becoming A Laker & Larry Bird’s Revenge

Seattle SuperSonics Legend Shawn Kemp On Almost Becoming A Laker & Larry Bird's Revenge

Today, former Seattle SuperSonics legend Shawn Kemp sat down for the latest episode of “Knuckleheads Podcast with Darius Miles & Quentin Richardson” to discuss his high school dominance in Indiana, why he chose Kentucky over the hometown school, and how former Indiana coach Bobby Knight stepped in to make sure that decision would cost him Indiana’s Mr. Basketball title.

In discussing his time in the NBA, The Reign Man also shares details on how the Lakers desperately tried to keep him hidden in L.A. during draft workouts to keep other teams from drafting him, as well as a hilarious story about the time Larry Bird dropped 50 points on him during his first game in Boston, as an act of revenge for breaking his Indiana state records and dunking on his brother!

Episode highlights include:

  • Shawn on the first person to “bust his ass” in the NBA:We were playing the Boston Celtics, so the great Larry Bird. I’m from Indiana and Larry’s from Indiana. I knew about the history of Larry but I didn’t realize how he really got down…. Larry gave me 50 in three quarters. And he talked to me the whole entire game. He asked me at the jump ball ‘You’re the one that broke all my records in high school right?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ and he said ‘And you’re the one that used to dunk on my brother too right, Andy?’ and I said, “Yeah, that’s me.” and he said “I’ve got something for you tonight.”
  • How he knew not choosing to attend Indiana University cost him Indiana’s Mr. Basketball title:I knew I wasn’t going to win Mr. Basketball the day I picked The University of Kentucky over Indiana University, which was Bobby Knight. Bobby Knight personally called me himself and told me there was no chance in hell I was going to win Mr. Basketball in Indiana. No Chance. Either I reverse the decision or I kiss the Mr. Basketball award goodbye.”
  • On how he almost became a Laker but became more inclined to go to Seattle (12:35):Magic hooked me up with some agents. I left Trinity Valley [Community College] and moved to LA. The Lakers were hiding me out in LA for months. But that year the Lakers won the Championship. So I was thinking… They might try to send me overseas. It was four days before the draft and I started going out and visiting teams. I only visited four or five teams. Seattle was the first team that I visited. I was indulged to go to Seattle and play for them simply because they had a Black coach and I thought he could help me out and relate to me in more ways than one.”
  • Shawn recalls when George Karl was appointed the new head coach of the SuperSonics (27:45):I got a phone call from him and he said, ‘Shawn this is George Karl, your new coach of the Seattle SuperSonics. I just want you to know you’re not in the starting lineup anymore.’ and I was like, ‘I don’t give a damn.’ and I hung up. That’s the kind of guy George was. He was trying to light a fire in me.”
  • Shawn reveals the reason that he eventually decided to leave Seattle (33:50):In the NBA, the contracts weren’t that great. In my mind, I wanted to break a 100 Million. Nobody had a 100 Million dollar contract yet. It wasn’t about SK making a 100 Million. It was about breaking a barrier because I thought we should be making more money. …In my heart I kind of knew I was going to have to leave because they [Seattle] weren’t going to pay me 100 Million dollars. I had six years left on my contract. I was the first athlete ever who got 100 Million dollars and still had six or seven years on my contract.”

Stay-tuned for upcoming episodes featuring George Gervin, Deron Williams, and more. Fans can look forward to new episodes on Tuesdays on all major podcast services and online at The Players’ Tribune website and video of the episodes will be available on Thursdays on The Players’ Tribune YouTube.

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