Shawn Kemp Explains Why He Promptly Declined Oklahoma City Thunder’s Offer to Honor Him During this Year’s NBA PlayoffsMay 11, 2011 – 5:01 pm by Michael Bean
We’re just under two hours away from Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies. Tip time is 8:30 pm CST from Oklahoma City. If tonight’s pivotal fifth game is anything like Game 4, basketball fans won’t want to miss the action. On Monday, the Thunder and Grizzlies needed triple overtime to decide things before finally surging past Memphis 133-123.
While we wait for the series to resume, a quick word from former Sonics legend Shawn Kemp, who on Tuesday joined KJR in Seattle to share a little anecdote about declining an invitation from the Thunder organization earlier in the playoffs to come to OKC and sit in the front row. It was the organization’s way of trying to bridge the divide between the past and present chapters of the franchise. Kemp wasn’t having any of it. He promptly declined because, as you’ll hear, his loyalties are still 100 percent in Seattle and will continue to be that way until the Emerald City gets a team back.
Kemp joined KJR in Seattle to talk about how tough it would be for him if the Thunder and Heat were to advance to this year’s NBA Finals, how he was offered the opportunity by the Thunder to come down to Oklahoma City and sit in the front row and be honored during the Thunder-Nuggets series, why he declined the offer without hesitation, being happy that he didn’t see Gary Payton take the Thunder up on the same offer, and how his buddies joked that he should have gone and worn a Sonics jersey.
Where his rooting loyalties would lie if the Thunder were advance on to the Finals to play the Heat:
“It’s going to be tough but let me tell you guys this…I live out here in Seattle, I’ll cary the Sonics in my heart for the rest of my life, but I have a problem rooting for Oklahoma. I just do. I was invited to the last game when they played against in Denver to sit in the front row. I can’t do it.”
On the Thunder presenting the offer to his wife and whether she even mentioned it to him before declining:
“She mentioned it to me, but she knew what the answer was. It’s loyalty man. The people here, I don’t think it would be too smooth for the people around here to look up one day and see me sitting in the front row of the Oklahoma Thunder. The people back here deserve basketball, and it was taken and robbed from the people in this area. So my loyalty remains in this area and these people until they get a team back. I won’t be sitting in anyone’s front row until the Sonics are back in action.”
On if the Thunder expressed why they were so interested in wanting to honor him:
“It’s really different for me because I know they have the banners of some of the accomplishments here in this city hanging up there, and it’s very awkward for me to look at that stuff knowing that that stuff was done in Seattle, and we’re now in the middle of Timbuktu. So it would be different. I was honored for them to call me, but at the same time my heart and my loyalty remains here in the Northwest.”
If he had any sort of discussion with them or internally before declining:
“No, because you feel these things in your heart. You know right away if it’s going to be a good or bad and what you want to be known for. I went down that path before. So you know in your heart if you’re here in Seattle and you’re asking for a team to come back, and your part of an organization that’s trying to bring a team back to the city, you don’t want to go and represent another association that’s already doing that.”
On Gary Payton also declining similar offers from the Thunder:
“I got to tell you the funny part about it. The funny part about it is this….I didn’t get a chance to call you guys but I was like ‘man, I hope I don’t turn this game on tomorrow night and see Gary sitting in the front row’. I knew it wasn’t going to happen that way and it wasn’t. I didn’t see any guys on the front row so they probably shot that down when they realized.”
After the hosts joked that Payton might have gone just to play a joke on the Thunder organization, Kemp mentioned his buddies suggested he do something similar:
“My buddies told me ‘you should have gone down there and put on your old Sonics uniform and sat in the front row.’”