In George Karl’s new book “Furious George”, Karl tells the story of a trade that almost went down in 1994 between his Seattle SuperSonics and Chicago Bulls. The Sonics would have sent star big man Shawn Kemp and Ricky Pierce to the Bulls for Scottie Pippen. It’s a trade that came down to the final minutes before the NBA Draft that Sonics owner Barry Ackerley decided to back out on, which left Bulls GM Jerry Krause fuming at Karl and the Sonics.
That trade could have possibly changed NBA history and who knows if the Bulls would have went on to win three more NBA titles if it were to go down. Kemp joined me on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it to give his reaction to the near-trade that would have sent him to Chicago to play with Michael Jordan.
“I think like most players I’ve always been excited to play against Michael Jordan,” said Kemp. “You always wanna play against the best and that’s kinda how I saw it, I’m a kid who grew up on the outside of Chicago I’m from Indiana, I grew up on the outside of Chicago, so that would’ve been a little different for me to be playing back at home. I loved playing in Seattle and when this particularly happened we were playing in the Dream Team too and we were having a practice and I remember waking up one morning when we had practice and I thought I heard my name on the TV section. I wake up and it’s like six in the morning and I’m looking and it’s ESPN talking and I hear about this trade about me being traded for Scottie Pippen and it didn’t really bother me but it was just one of those things that you know you get to the NBA and have success and you just wanna play against the best, you don’t wanna play with the best so I always found it a great challenge playing against Michael Jordan, to play against Magic Johnson, to play against Larry Bird, to play against all those good players because it’s something that you can take away from it.
“If I did get the chance to play with Michael Jordan I probably would’ve got a chance to maybe go for a championship more than one year as we did here in Seattle, but as an athlete you really try not to think about that stuff, you really just wanna play the game, have as much fun and success as you possibly can. It was a little different and I think the fans had something to do with the trade. I believe this trade actually probably was going down, but the fans started calling in here at Seattle and started complaining to the ownership about me getting traded and then the owner changed his mind on the trade. It was one of those things where you’re an athlete and then you gotta get this success as an athlete then you say you know what man the fans really like me. So, you really don’t wanna leave the place where the fans have your back a little bit, so you know what, I’d like to go back there, stick it out and play for the people that really want me.”
Fans loved Kemp in Seattle. He was a fan favorite and for good reasons. Kemp was a double-double machine and the team was winning 55-plus games with ease. The trade at first may have resulted in many fans not showing up.
“When it came to me that the fans were threatening to burn down the arena, they were threatening to turn in their season tickets and things like this,” said Kemp. “When those things happen like I said you just you have this spirit inside of you and you’re trying to say to yourself like man I got a pretty good group around here, so the only message I really sent back to them was just let me know my focus is really just playing with some of the best players in the world that time with the Dream Team too, we were actually staying in Chicago at this time when this trade was going on I was actually in Chicago practicing with the Dream Team too so it’s one of those things where you’re an athlete and sometimes you think you’re so good that you’re never gonna be traded, well, all athletes somewhere down the line is gonna be mentioned in a trade I think.”
Super Teams have become a thing in the NBA that wasn’t there in the 90’s. It wasn’t the ‘cool’ thing to do back then.
“But you gotta remember this is in the 90’s where it really wasn’t cool to jump on the boat when a team was doing well. Just recent years was when it became okay and it was cool for an athlete to say ‘hey you know what I’m on a bad team let me go to a great team and be good.’ In the 90’s it was more of a thing where that was the wrong thing to do and you didn’t wanna be mentioned in those words of saying here’s a team that you’ve been playing against then all of a sudden you’re gonna join ship with them. So it was just one of those things where I think I’m a young guy at the time and I’m saying to myself you know what we got a pretty good team in Seattle, I like Michael Jordan, I like to play against him and I’ve seen him play when I was in high school and a lot of different things, but you know I enjoyed playing against those guys and I think that’s how the fans respect you. The fans really only respect you if you really only play good against the best.”
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. You can catch him on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it, iTunes, and Spotify. It’s a weekly sports show mixed in with a bit of entertainment and interviews as well every week. He occasionally hosts SportsTalk1240 on WGBB in Long Island, and formerly hosted Brown and Scoop, Brown and Troupe, and on ESPN Radio NH. Jake lives in Queens and being a Mets fan is finally paying off.