Germany has provided us with many fantastic things.
Mercedes-Benz. Volkswagen. Fine bavarian pastry. The Scorpions.
OK, forget cars. I'm all about delicious, flaky streusel. And hard rock music.
Another import, which probably trumps all of these (well, except maybe the pastry), is one of the best forwards to ever come out of the European Union. His dynamic play and trademark flat top haircut rank as some of the finest moments of 1990s basketball. Besides Dirk Nowitzki, he is probably known as one of the best German basketball players ever.
This fine gentleman is Detlef Schrempf.
Detlef Schrempf was like the Saul Goodman of the Seattle Supersonics. When Gary Payton or Shawn Kemp found themselves in trouble, they knew to "Better Call Detlef." He could provide great passing, three-point play and rebounding. He helped Seattle to the Western Conference title in 1996, and will be remembered for that season as the Sonics' best third option.
He came to the United States in 1980, moving with his family to Washington State where he became a high school star, leading the Centralia Tigers to the Class AA State Championship in 1981. After high school, he went to the University of Washington, where he helped the Huskies win Pac-10 titles in 1984 and 1985, and garnered individual awards as well, being a first team All-Pac-10 member in both '84 and '85.
After a fruitful career at Washington, Schrempf took the next step, and in 1985 was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. He played a limited role his first few years in the league, but did compete in the NBA Three-Point Competition at the 1987 All-Star Game, which was won by Larry Bird.
Detlef Schrempf playing against the LA Lakers in 1987. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Not knowing what they had, the Mavericks shipped Schrempf and a second-round pick (which turned out to be Antonio Davis) to Indiana in February 1989 for Herb Williams. It was with the Pacers that Schrempf realized his true potential, raising his scoring average by five points a game, and became one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the game.
The Pacers also started to improve during this time. During much of the 1980s, they were a team with no direction. They started to draft and trade well, acquiring the likes of Reggie "Aloysius" Miller (an obscure reference for people other than Dan Patrick fans), Chuck Person and Rik Smits. The Pacers took the Boston Celtics to the limit in the 1991 Playoffs before Larry Bird showed the young Pacers who was boss and dropped Indiana in an epic seven-game series.
After a pretty successful run with the Pacers, Schrempf got an opportunity to return to his adopted home state when he was traded to the Supersonics for Derrick McKey and Gerald Paddio. This is where Schrempf really caught the attention of mainstream basketball fans.
At this time, the Sonics were a good team, but needed that extra cherry topping on the cheesecake to make them delicious.
Enter Chef Schrempf.
What Schrempf, Shawn Kemp, andwere able to cook up was a magnificent meal of great rebounding, amazing defensive play of "The Glove," and the exciting dunks of "The Reign Man." It took the Sonics all the way to the NBA Finals in 1996, where they took the Chicago Bulls to Game 6 before falling to Michael Jordan and company.
There was no shame in losing to Jordan. It was like playing basketball against Jesus.
Schrempf continued to help Seattle until he was released in 1999. He wasn't out of a job long, as he signed the same day with the rival Portland Trail Blazers. While the Sonics fell into a funk, the Blazers became one of the best teams in basketball, competing for an NBA Championship, including a thrilling seven-game series against the LA Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
After two and a half seasons with Portland, Schrempf retired in 2001. In 2006, he was hired to be an assistant coach with the Sonics under Bob Hill, who had coached Schrempf in Indiana. Shortly after, Seattle's Man of the Year (cough cough) Clay Bennett bought the team and both Schrempf and Jack Sikma were relieved of their assistant coaching duties.
While some players have difficulty figuring out what to do after sports, Detlef Schrempf did not. Having majored in International Business at the University of Washington, he now works for Coldstream Capital in Bellevue.
He also heads the Detlef Schrempf Foundation, an organization that helps kids' charities raise money through golf tournaments, marathons, dinners and other events.
"We just started getting bombarded [with charitable requests]," Schrempf told Sports Illustrated last year. "We grew so quickly that within the first year, … I had to hire a staff and start a foundation."
Schrempf has also ventured into acting, as he was featured on the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation." Former pro basketball player, businessman, and sometimes-actor. Yes, Detlef Schrempf might be the best German import since Mercedes or Volkswagen.
But streusel? That's a bit of a stretch.