The first player we want to highlight in this series is a dunk legend. Everybody loves Shawn Kemp! One of the most iconic dunkers of all time. Dunks like the Lister Blister.
He came into the league in 1989 as a 1st round pick. He was the youngest player in the NBA at that moment because he was drafted straight out of high school. He had a tough first season, only playing 13.8 minutes, scoring 6.5 and grabbing 4.3 rebounds per game. In his second year, he started to get the hang of it. He averaged around 15.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He began to click with his star-studded cast consisting of Gary Payton, Eddie Johnson, Ricky Pierce and Nate McMillen. He became a big force on the field that opponents feared. He was no boy; this guy was a man. His nickname became the Reign Man because of his ability to reign over the opponents. This nickname was given by the Sonics announcer. He became a star and the new human highlight reel.
Over the next eight years, he averaged around 17 points a game with 8 to 9 rebounds. He even made it to the finals with the Seattle Supersonics but fell short due to a dominant Chicago Bulls squad lead by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. After that he went to Cleveland and put up decent numbers. Due to the 1998-1999 NBA season lockout, the season was shortened. This was a terrible time for Kemp because he showed up at training camp weighing 325 pounds. He was unable to lose the weight and it became his downfall. The last seasons of his career were terrible and he never managed to recover. He retired from the NBA in 2003 with the Orlando Magic.
Shawn Kemp was despite his final seasons a great player. He was an athletic freak of nature and had some of the greatest dunks of all time. A lot of people believe he is Hall of Fame worthy. The only problem is that they think he played too short to be a Hall of Famer. His greatest years lasted about 8-9 years. Comparing him to the other power forward legends, he doesn’t stack up to careers like Kevin McHale or Karl Malone. Still, We are Basket believes he belongs in the Hall of Fame. His impact on the culture was so big. He became one of the reasons why 90’s basketball are regarded as the golden years of the NBA. The other reason was that he didn’t win a championship, but is this a requirement? So many players in the Hall of Fame have never won a championship. Winning a finals could, of course, boost a players credibility. But it can never decide whether a career is Hall of Fame worthy or not.