Shortly after I moved here, Seattle entered a golden age of professional sports. I arrived in 1994. The following year, the Mariners staged a historic comeback from 13 games behind, wining a one-game playoff over the Angels and a thrilling ALDS series over the Yankees. The next year, the beloved Sonics made the NBA finals, playing well against the juggernaut that was Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. That Sonics team was led by the gruff, loveable George Karl (get well, George!) and the sensational point guard Gary Payton, a.k.a. “The Glove.”
This week’s Pounds Off Playoff, a basketball player in honor of the NBA Finals, features the other leader of that 1996 Sonics team, Shawn Kemp. In his prime, Kemp was among the most dominant power forwards in the league. But by 2003, he had played his way out of the league. Kemp was out of shape, ultimately ballooning to 330 pounds.
We join the story in 2006, as this New York Times article profiled the comeback of Shawn Kemp. Out of basketball for three years with a variety of problems, Kemp got himself into shape for a comeback attempt. His plan was a combination of diet and nutrition. His diet was eating three meals a day of oatmeal (not something I would recommend) and running as many as seven miles per day.
Kemp’s comeback attempt was ultimately unsuccessful. His life is a cautionary tale, an example of the kind of guy who would have been much more successful if he’d have taken care of himself (and not made terrible decisions with drugs and women, it should be noted). And really, we all are that guy, although the rest of us can get in shape successfully without meeting the expectations of the NBA.
Four years after this article was written, Kemp’s comeback is a fading memory, Coach Karl is in a fight for his life with throat cancer, and the Sonics are history. Kemp’s story, and the characters in it, reminds us to make the most of the moment, and our health.