So now that I let the cat out of the proverbial bag (you know, from that proverb about the cat, and the bag) last Friday and shared my tremendous appreciation of incoming NBA Hall of Famer Gary “The Glove” Payton, I suppose it’s time to profile another favorite Seattle Supersonic of yesteryear.
Imagine your prototypical pro basketball player.
… Seriously, do it.
My guess is you pictured someone:
- Slender, and
- White, sporting a blond crew cut
What? That last one caught you by surprise?
Precisely. That peculiar description (which fits only two basketball players to my knowledge – Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, and today’s subject) is what helped make 6’9″ Detlef Schrempf stand out as one of the more noticeable basketball players of his era.
However, his unusual appearance wasn’t the only thing that made the erstwhile NBA superstar catch your eye on the court: he was one of the most steady, reliable players on several high-performing teams. In 1991 and 1992, he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award, given to the best player not in his team’s starting lineup. Finally, after two years of having the league’s best bench player, the Indiana Pacers decided to put Detlef into their starting rotation, and he responded by getting selected to the NBA All-Star game as one of the 24 best players in the league – and the only Pacer in that year’s NBA All Star game.
Imagine that: two years in a row being considered the 6th best player on your team, and then the next year, they finally give you a chance to be a starter and you become your team’s brightest star and one of the top players in the game.
After that breakout season, the Pacers responded by… trading Detlef to the Seattle Sonics. Seriously, with front office decisions like that, it’s a wonder Indiana still hasn’t won an NBA title in their 41 years.
Detlef Schrempf immediately found a fit with the legendary Sonic Boom teams of the mid-1990’s, reaching two more all-star games while serving as a reliable foil for Sam “Big Smooth” Perkins, Hersey “Hawk” Hawkins, and one of the best duos in NBA history – Shawn “Reign Man” Kemp and of course Gary “The Glove” Payton. In 1996, Detlef became the first German-born player ever to reach the NBA finals, when the best Sonics team in history had the misfortune of running into the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, who set the record for most wins in an NBA season that year.
After a stint with the Portland Trailblazers, Detlef retired in 2001 and has taken quite nicely to retirement. His Detlef Schrempf Foundation – located at Detlef.com, easily one of my favorite domain names ever – recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. It has raised $10 million for children’s charities in the Pacific Northwest through a mix of activities such as (if the website photos are any indication): dressing up as leprechauns and signing little girls’ bellies, getting all of Seattle to dress up like leprechauns and run down city streets, laughing at tables, and jumping while wearing golfing clothes. Seems like great fun.
But not as fun as… Amber Alert! … Detlef’s cameos on Parks and Recreation(!), where he played himself in three episodes, visiting the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana, whose residents were no doubt thrilled to have him back in their state, even if not in a Pacers uniform. When not being an all-around awesome celebrity cameo, Detlef Schrempf spends his time as a business development officer at Coldstream Capital (a wealth management firm) and joking on Twitter about being dissed by Michael Jordan.
Not too shabby. It’s good to be Detlef Schrempf!