What If We Have A Shawn Kemp 2.0?

There is a question about what kind of shape players will be in when they return.

Jim Rome
June 05, 2020 - 10:26 am
Shawn Kemp

Getty Images


The NBA has voted on a plan to return in July with 22 teams that will lead to a 16-team postseason and a champion being crowned potentially as late as October.

But there are still a lot of what ifs. Like what if a player tests positive? What if a number of players test positive? What if there is a second wave of COVID-19? What if players don’t show up in shape?

What if we have a Shawn Kemp 2.0?

This came up yesterday with Chris Mannix. There definitely is a question about what kind of shape players will be in when they return and the risk in particular of soft tissue injuries after going 4 ½ months between regular season games.

But there is no way that we can have a Shawn Kemp 2.0, right? There is no way that a guy comes back the way Kemp came back from the lockout, right? I mean, that’s just impossible. Because the Reign Man did the impossible. And it something that doesn’t get nearly the respect that it deserves.

If you are too young to remember Shawn Kemp in his prime, this is what it was like. This is the kind of brutality he could unleash on opposing players, like poor Alton Lister.


Dunk on Lister’s head, knock him to the ground, and then point at him with both fingers

And he could do this to Dennis Rodman.

Reverse dunk, hang on the rim, and then sit on Rodman’s shoulders. Kemp was listed at 6’10, 230. He was a six-time All-star and a double-double machine and then came the trade to Cleveland. And then came the lockout in 1998.

And even though players were not locked out of gyms the way they have been during the pandemic, Kemp certainly locked himself out of gyms. And the cardio room. And he locked himself in the kitchen.

Because the guy who used to be an elite physical specimen came back from the lockout looking like a beached whale. He went from putting up 21 and 12 in his final game of the 1998 playoffs to allegedly weighing more than 312 when he came back. He left the Reign Man and came back the Michellin Man.

Check this opening from an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 2011: “The 1998-99 NBA lockout weighed heavily on everyone involved. Some more than others. Few more than Shawn Kemp.

Just ask his former Cavaliers teammates who returned for an abbreviated 50-game season and were astonished at the transformation of Kemp's once-sculpted frame. It was as if their All-Star power forward hadn't picked up a basketball or put down a fork since the work stoppage had begun.”

Is that an article in a newspaper or is that a smackoff call? I’d have to run someone for that level of personal appearance smack. And it’s all pretty fair.

So how does something like that happen? It’s pretty easy, really. As Kemp told Mike Fratello, I didn’t think we were coming back.

What, ever? Like you never thought the game of basketball would ever be played again, so you just started eating and never stopped. I mean, surely you realized that you’d play at some point, right? Apparently not.

The team did Kemp a favor and listed him as 6’10, 280 that season, which was still 34 pounds heavier than what he weighed the previous year. But GM Wayne Embry later revealed that Kemp showed up at 315.

3 freaking 15. The team admitted he put on 34 pounds, but that was only the half of it. Literally. It’s more like he put on 70 pounds. Or more. In nine months. That is freaking prolific. That is so impressive.

He went from a power forward to a left tackle. When he came back, 40 wasn’t his jersey number, it was his BMI.

He went from being a double-double machine to being…a double-double machine. HEY-O!

I’m going to be really interested to see what kind of shape NBA players are in next month, but there is no way that someone goes Shawn Kemp. It’s impossible. Shawn Kemp coming back from the lockout at 315 is like Cy Young winning 511 games – it’s a record that will never be broken.

I know that Bryant Reeves put on 40 pounds during that same lockout. But think about that – Reeves put on 40 pounds in that lockout and Kemp nearly doubled him up. Nearly lapped him. Nearly lap-banded him.

And that dude’s nickname was Big Country. If anyone should’ve been packing ‘em on, it was Bryant Reeves. But Kemp went Secretariat on him at the buffet.

If a pro athlete puts on 70 pounds in nine months, you have no choice but to respect it. The Reign Man became The Grain Man.

The Quiche Lorraine Man.

The Did Not Train Man.

The Gonna Need A Crane Man.

He definitely wasn’t The Romaine Man. Do you know how hard you have to work to put on 70 pounds in nine months? That’s eight pounds a month. That’s two pounds every single week. No weeks off. If you have a week were you only put on one pound, you’ve got to triple it next week.

70 pounds in nine months means absolutely no vegetables. No salads within fifty feet for nine months.  What I’m saying is, it means you’re Gerit Ritt!

Embry wrote that the team tried to do something about it: "The Cleveland Clinic nutritionist put him on a diet, but Shawn did not have the discipline to adhere to it. We even offered to have a chef go to his house and prepare meals for him. ... I told Shawn…'I don't want anyone playing for me that weighs more than me.' That did not work either."

Nothing but respect. You come back at 315 and you stay at 315. You worked hard to get that physique. Don’t let them give you a dietician or a chef to work it off. Keep pounding the rock and pounding food. And not in that order.

And the crazy thing is, he still averaged more than 20 a game that year. 20 points. And probably 20 burgers too.

And as much as you would like to see it, nobody’s showing up in Orlando looking like Shawn Kemp. So get over it. Keep moving. Kemp was one of one. No one, anywhere, in sports or out, is emerging from the lockdown, the way Kemp emerged from the lock out.  slap on a piece of wood and put it on a wall, because that lockout 70 is never, ever coming down. Sure, records are made to be broken. But not that one.