shawn kemp

Originally published in SLAM 7

Real pressure, the kind that great teams thrive on, usually comes with winning the deciding game in a championship series. But for the Seattle SuperSonics, the tension this past playoff season was to win a first round series.

The new jack Lakers, a team everybody was looking at, were the Sonics’ first round foe this time around and, although old schoolers like Kareem, Magic and Worthy were busy rockin’ chairs instead of rims, the Lakers’ new kids—Van Exel, Jones and Ceballos—were putting more than enough stress on the Sonics.

The Lakers had managed to split the two games played up in Seattle. Players were amped for Game 3, which was at the Lakers’ house, and, well, it was like the good old days.

With just under a minute left in the third quarter, and the Lakers up by 11, the Sonics needed a wake-up call like it was nobody’s business.

Leave it to motor mouth Gary Payton, who drove the ball down the lane and into the heart of the Laker D. Seeing nothing but gold gear between himself and the tin, Payton kicked it out to Vincent Askew at the top of the key. Knowing his J was about as weak as Shawn Bradley’s game, Askew quickly swung the ball over to team captain Nate McMillan on the left side who heaved a three-pointer that looked like a brick in transit.

With the Laker D scrambling, the always-dangerous Shawn Kemp found himself chillin’ over in the right corner, waiting. Alone. Big oops. McMillan’s shot hit off the rim and bounced to the left, about five feet off the rim. As the Lakers’ George Lynch waited for the rebound, Kemp came into the picture. Super Shawn rose, danced in the air, grabbed the pill with his right hand, arm fully extended behind him, and in one motion threw down a windmill jam HARD as Van Exel and Lynch’s jaws dropped.

Kemp ran up the court, arms cocked behind his neck, yelling at his teammates: “C’mon, let’s go!”

But it wasn’t enough. He got a 10 on style but it still only registered a two on the scoreboard. The Sonics lost that game 105-101 and never made it back to Seattle, losing the next game by four points again.