Shawn Kemp entered the NBA by way of Trinity Valley Community College in 1989, a native of Elkhart, Indiana in the north-central part of the state near the Michigan border.
While he quickly became one of the better athletes in the league with the Supersonics, it took “The Reignman” a while to find his sea legs, as he averaged just 6.5 ppg his first year.
It was a baptism by fire on many fronts for the Seattle legend (who recently opened his first cannabis shop in Seattle, complete with an 80-foot mural).
One of his most memorable experiences involved a meeting with legendary Celtics forward Larry Bird.
Kemp knew about Bird’s reputation as a player, but not his trash talking acumen, as he found out first hand.
“You know, I’m from Indiana, Larry’s from Indiana, I knew about the history of Larry but I didn’t realize how he really got down,” Kemp said on The Knuckleheads podcast from The Players’ Tribune to hosts Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles.
While modern day NBA fans underestimate Bird due to his perceived lack of athleticism (an assertion that this video proves is unequivocably wrong), “Larry Legend” schooled the young Kemp this time around, who was filling in for another athletic and strong forward by the name of Xavier McDaniel.
“Larry gave me 50 in three quarters,” Kemp said. “And he talked to me the whole entire game.”
Larry’s trash talk was usually quite understated, in contrast with more outspoken legends of recent days like Kevin Garnett.
But as usual, Bird did his homework, as Kemp tells it.
“He asked me at the jump ball, ‘you the kid that broke all my records in high school right?’ And I said, ‘yeah that’s me.
“He said, ‘I got something for you tonight. Every shot he was calling.”
Kemp added that Bird would tell him on defense the exact move he was going for on offense, and Kemp still couldn’t stop the Celtics legend.