Shawn Kemp getting fat is one of the greatest memes the NBA has ever seen. It’s the kind of thing that gets brought up every offseason, every time some guy starts putting on weight and every time Shawn Kemp gets brought up in casual conversation, which is a lot more often than you would imagine. It is — and will always be — a great source of laughs for the NBA fan.
But lost in all those LOLs is the true story of how it actually happened. How did one of the most chiseled guys in the NBA turn in to a tub of lard who somehow turned his jawline in to a jaw squiggle? There are two descriptions that tell this legendary tale. The first comes from Mike Fratello. From the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
The Cavs listed him at 6-10, 280 pounds — a 34-pound increase from the previous season — but then-General Manager Wayne Embry later revealed in his autobiography that Kemp reported to camp at 315 pounds.
“He was really very honest about it,” former Cavs coach Mike Fratello recalled. “I said, ‘Shawn, how did this happen?’ He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t think we were coming back.’”
Yep. That’s a good reason. Not very in-depth, but it seems legit. Why stay in shape if you’re convinced there’s no reason to stay in shape?
Here’s the in-depth version, where it sounds like Shawn Kemp was actively trying to not stay in shape.
Embry, a consultant for the Toronto Raptors, is prohibited from discussing any lockout. But in his book, “The Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA,” he wrote about 1998-99 season:
“Whatever teams were in the best shape would definitely have an advantage in the short schedule. We were not one of them. We were all disappointed in Shawn’s physical condition. With the money we were paying him, we had every reason to expect him to stay in shape. It was not as if he could not afford to hire people to help him do that.
“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 the same thing I told Mel Turpin years ago, ‘I don’t want anyone playing for me that weighs more than me.’ That did not work either.”
OK, this is also a good reason. Not only did Kemp not follow his diet, he also turned down an offer for a private chef that the team wanted to hire for him because they were clearly worried he’d get fat. That is some serious dedication to sloth and gluttony, my friends.
It’s almost commendable how committed Shawn Kemp was to not staying in shape. You have to try really hard to gain that much weight that quickly when you’re a professional athlete, even if you’re not actually training. Hats off to you, Shawn Kemp. And not just because your head is too big to fit any hat either.