Q+A: Iman Shumpert

The Cavs swingman on Kyrie Irving, Kanye West and how Cleveland can make a return trip to the Finals.
by January 11, 2016

2015 was all about growth for Iman Shumpert.

Yes, the 6-5 swingman grew out his flat-top to Kid from Kid ‘n Play-like proportions. But he’s also raised his game, his salary and most importantly, is now beginning to raise a child.

Shumpert reached his first NBA Finals in June and signed a four-year, $40 million deal with the Cavaliers in July. In September, Shumpman had wrist surgery, sidelining him for the first 21 games of the 2015-16 season. He made his return on December 11, and less than a week later, on December 16, Shumpert’s fiancée Teyana Taylor gave birth to the couple’s first child, Iman Tayla Shumpert, Jr.

It seems Shumpert is finding his rhythm on the court one month into his fifth season. He had his best game of the year in a 26-point blowout of Minnesota on January 8, in which Shump dropped 23 points and collected 4 steals. We caught up with Cleveland’s defensive X-factor two days before that performance—after a win in Washington—to talk briefly about his big 2015, Kyrie Irving’s return, hip-hop and more. Check it out below.

SLAM: What’s it going to take for you guys to make the Finals for a second straight year?

Iman Shumpert: We’ve just gotta keep growing. We find all types of ways to just win. As long as you keep finding ways to win, you keep finding ways to lean on each other—no man’s job becomes too big—you can get anywhere in this League.

SLAM: How important is it for you guys to be fully healthy?

IS: It’s the NBA, so nobody is really 100 percent healthy. It’s just how much can you play through, and you gotta take care of your body. [Staying healthy] is a huge part to the season. It’s a huge advantage if you got everybody healthy, and we’re hoping that we got our injuries out the way.

SLAM: Does Kyrie have the best handles in the League?

IS: Yes. It’s not even close. I mean, Chris Paul is the closest thing smokin’. But yeah, it’s not close.

SLAM: What about one of your opponents tonight—do you think John Wall is in the conversation?

IS: John Wall is fast. He’s the fastest thing with the ball that I’ve played against. But he ain’t handling that thang like Kyrie.

SLAM: How long did it take for you to record “Shumpman” and what was the process like?

IS: Forty-five minutes. I write a lot. A couple of days before I did it, a fan on Twitter was like, ‘You should remix Jumpman.’ And then, I was in practice, I was clownin’ with—[turns to Jared Cunningham]—Jared, I was clownin’ with you, huh? J, I was clownin’ with you that day when I said I was gonna go write ‘Shumpman.’ I was clownin’ with Jared actually on the low, and I was like ‘Shumpman, Shumpman, Shumpman that boy up to something.’ And everybody was laughing. And then that afternoon, I went that afternoon and just wrote it.

SLAM: Did you get a chance to listen to Yeezy’s remix, and if so, what did you think?

IS: I did. I’m already a Chicago guy, and I’m an adidas guy. I thought it was fire—I mean, I don’t think anybody will be able to ever ‘jump over the Jumpman,’ but I get what [Kanye] was saying.

SLAM: There’s a lot of hip-hop talent coming out of Chicago. Are there any particular Chi-town artists you’ve been listening to recently?

IS: Oh, yeah. Xavier Holliday, Mick Jenkins, Supa Bwe, King Louie, YP. Tink±she’s super nice—I’m glad Timbaland snatched her up.

SLAM: Aside from Chicago guys, what other artists are you bumping in your headphones pre-game, on the road, on the airplane?

IS: Bryson Tiller, Travis Scott, Machine Gun Kelly. The new Erykah Badu gets a lot of play. And then always some CeeLo [Green]. I’m a big-time CeeLo fan.

Photo via Getty Images