There was perhaps no more fitting a nickname for a Seattle athlete than Reign Man.
The play on words encapsulated the baller and his city to a ‘T’ at a time when the energy of the SuperSonics around the league was wowing the nation. Shawn Kemp and his cavalcade of dunks helped give personality to a brash Sonics squad that was arguably the second most popular team at the time behind the Chicago Bulls, the very definition of 1990s NBA.
Kemp, though, didn’t want to be known as a guy who could dunk.
He tells host Brad Burns on the first episode of Sonics Forever that he recognized the opportunity to stand out in the crowd, sure. Yet, he believed, as many players did then, that dunking was a flourish you added to being an all-around good player.
Sonics Forever, the joint podcast venture from George Karl’s Truth+ Media and Simply Seattle, wants to take you through the journey of Seattle’s one-time — and hopefully, soon again — NBA team. As seen through the fog of memory of some of the biggest names associated with the club, it wants to tell you a well-earned history and maybe share some things you’ve never known.
Turns out Kemp’s memory is pretty good, and this premiere is a great sit-down with the Sonics legend walking through his history and some finer points of that ’90s team.
His recruitment to Kentucky when he was heavily favored to play for home state Indiana and coach Bobby Knight. His subsequent transfer to Trinity Valley Community College; he never had a single practice let alone played a game for either school.
His 4 weeks of training with Magic Johnson and the Lakers ahead of the 1989 NBA Draft in anticipation of being picked by L.A. Only to have a son of Barry Ackerley show up and convince him to take a trip to Seattle.
His disappointment that the Sonics didn’t capitalize on the two years Michael Jordan had retired from basketball, when they were the best team in the league. Matched by his joy that making the ’96 Finals finally gave fans the goods following the build-up and hype of previous seasons.
Though, when asked for a favorite game of that series, Kemp soberly wonders how anyone could have a favorite game from a series they lost.
From being drafted 17th when many teams were interested, to game time logged with Dream Team 2, to the nixed trade that almost brought Scottie Pippen to Seattle and sent him to Chicago. It’s an informative, insightful discussion that still feels all too brief at nearly two hours.
There’s even talk of some guy named Gary, who occasionally lobbed him the ball.
Take a listen below.