Kemp Sr. has gradually grown closer to his eldest son since first contacting him in hopes of reentering his life before his junior year in high school. The former NBA star declined to be interviewed for this story through his son, but Kemp Jr. said his father reached out to him “because he knew the kind of pressure that would be put on me because of what he accomplished.”
A rather long (in blogging terms) read, but absolutely worth your time. Shawn Kemp, Jr. appears to be a resilient individual who has already triumphed over various obstacles: his father’s absenteeism, the despicable chants of opposing high school fans and most importantly his own academic failures. Now he’s primed to play for the University of Washington Huskies this coming NCAA basketball season.
In some ways he appears to be a chip off the old block. As Eisenberg noted, Jr’s gait is strikingly similar to his father’s and the way he releases himself from the rim after a dunk is pure Kempian. However, the younger Kemp can’t possibly emulate the road to the big time his father took.
If we stripped away all the highlight reels and all-star appearances, Shawn Kemp would still be an important figure in NBA history. Drafted by the Sonics 17th overall in 1989, Kemp was the first American player to enter the NBA without a single second of NCAA playing time to his name since Darryl Dawkins in 1975. Kemp had intended to play for the University of Kentucky, allegedly engaged in off-court shenanigans and then transferred to Trinity Valley Community College.
As Sports Illustrated noted back in 1989, many teams were hesitant to spend a 1st round pick, perhaps any pick,Â on a player who hadn’t seen competitive action since the 1988 the Indiana state high school tournament. Nonetheless,Â Sonics official were believers inÂ Kemp’s ability to become a marquee player. Of course, they were right and the Reign Man was born. Kemp’s success made it increasingly easier for underclassmen to leave earlier and earlier and for franchises to draft them higher and higher. This process culminated in Kevin Garnett opting to forgo any attempt at college and head straight to the pros in 1995 and bottomed out with Kwame Brown’s selection in 2001.
Even if Kemp had bottomed out Kwame Brown style, he would have still marked an important point on the road of individuals exercising greater freedom against the NBA and the NCAA. We can’t honestly expect such basketball importance to germinate from the same family tree twice, but you never know. What’s for certain is that the good people of Seattle,Washington will enjoy the reign again.