By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
You better have star power when you wear No. 1.
Iman Shumpert had it when he wore it and played on The Flats from 2008 through 2011.
An explosive scorer and lockdown defender in his three years at Georgia Tech, he made the ACC All-Freshman team, then, as a junior, was named second-team All-ACC and made the ACC All-Defensive team. He joined Georgia Tech’s 1,000-point club (1,166, 33rd all-time), and his 111 three-pointers rank 18th all-time. His 382 career assists still rank 11th in program history, his 4.1 assists per game put him 10th, and his 207 steals are fourth.
He may not have shone brighter as a Yellow Jacket than on Jan. 25, 2011 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, when he turned the Thrillerdome into his personal fiefdom, recording the fourth triple-double in Georgia Tech history (22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in helping the Yellow Jackets to a 72-57 win over Virginia Tech.
It’s the last time a Yellow Jacket has recorded a triple-double, but it hasn’t been the last time that the Oak Park, Ill., native, showed that he belongs among basketball royalty.
Shumpert won an NBA championship in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and, now in his eighth NBA season, is not only still playing at a high level, but is a King every day — a Sacramento King.
He moved west on Feb. 8, 2018 as part of a three-way, seven-player trade between Sacramento, the Utah Jazz and the Cavaliers, where Shumpert had spent the previous three-plus seasons years as a part of the court of King James (LeBron James). Iman was a key defensive stopper as part of Cavs teams that played in four straight NBA Finals, and earned the crown by beating the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Finals.
The kingdom, where Shumpert now resides, doesn’t have those championship expectations…yet.
These Kings haven’t earned a playoff berth or even seen a winning season since 2005-06 — back when Shumpert was lighting it up at Oak Park-River Forest High School, where he’d be a McDonald’s All-American as a senior. But, with him starting and contributing on the floor as well as leading off it, Sacramento is in the process of doing both.
“It’s good so far. We’ve got a young core,” said Shumpert. “It’s an equal-opportunity offense. So it’s good for me.”
He is thriving in California’s capital and is enjoying being an elder statesmen — at age 28 — on the 11th-youngest team in the League (25.7 years old). Of the 17 players on the roster, Shumpert is one of only four with as much as five seasons of NBA experience — power forward Zach Randolph (17), center Kosta Koufas (10) and guard Ben McLemore III (5) are the others.
The move from the Eastern Conference, where he spent his first seven NBA seasons, to the powerful West has fit him just fine, thank you.
He missed only two of the team’s first 17 games — one of those was a “load management” night off — and has been a valuable voice of experience, with a team full of up-and-comers eager to hear about the experience that comes from logging close to 400 games (more than half of those starts) and 71 playoff games, the most of anyone on the Kings, and the three Finals appearances (he was hurt last year), easily the most.
|PLAYER||SEASON STATS||TEAM RECORD|
| DERRICK FAVORS, F|
NBA Experience: 8 seasons
Years at Georgia Tech: 2009-10
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
| 10.8 ppg|
| 8-9 overall|
12th – 4 GB
Streak: L 1
Last 10: 4-6
| MARCUS GEORGES-HUNT, F|
Maine Red Claws (G League)
NBA Experience: 1 season
Years at Georgia Tech: 2012-16
Hometown: College Park, Ga.
| 12.2 ppg|
| 2-4 overall|
T-10th – 2.5 GB
Last 10: 2-4
| JOSH OKOGIE, G|
NBA Experience: Rookie
Years at Georgia Tech: 2016-18
Hometown: Snellville, Ga.
| 8.0 ppg|
| 7-10 overall|
14th – 5 GB
Streak: L 1
Last 10: 4-6
| IMAN SHUMPERT, G|
NBA Experience: 7 seasons
Years at Georgia Tech: 2008-11
Hometown: Oak Park, Ill.
| 9.5 ppg|
| 9-8 overall|
10th – 3 GB
Streak: W 1
Last 10: 5-5
| THADDEUS YOUNG, F|
NBA Experience: 11 seasons
Years at Georgia Tech: 2006-07
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
| 9.4 ppg|
| 11-6 overall|
3rd – 2.5 GB
Streak: W 3
Last 10: 7-3
“I’ve been sort of through the fire with almost any situation in the League,” Shumpert said. “I’ve dealt with a lockout, I’ve been to the (NBA Finals) three times, in and out of the Playoffs. I’ve been on a young team winning, I’ve been on an older team and been the young guy on a playoff team. So I’ve dealt with a lot of different things in the League, and I think it’s good for me to be able to vocalize it to these guys.”
Shumpert, a former NBA All-Rookie first-teamer, has freely offered experience to former first-round picks Willie Cauley-Stein (‘15), De’Aaron Fox (‘17) and Marvin Bagley III (‘18) and second-rounder Frank Mason III (‘17), but has spoken louder on the court and as an example of resilience in the face of adversity.
The 2017-18 season was a nightmare, as left-knee, left-foot (plantar fasciitis) then right-knee issues limited him to a career-low 14 games. He’d then be shipped out of Cleveland in February.
But at no point did he hang his head or consider hanging it up. Instead, he hung tough and hung around the gym, working and shooting himself back healthy.
In fact, Shumpert showed that not only is his shooting stroke as good as ever, but so is his sense of humor.
When asked about Internet reports about how much more he worked on shooting during the summer, he went on an animated rant, casting shade on critics who accused him of spending too much time on social media.
“Every year you work on your shooting,” he said. “I didn’t say I was working on shooting this off-season. You made that up. We shoot every day to be basketball players.
“You made that up. You made that up,” he added, intentionally raising his voice so as to get the attention of his teammates that were finishing shootaround. “He was trying to tell me I can’t shoot! He made it up. He’s trying to say I couldn’t shoot!”
As his teammates resumed their shooting, he smiled, then whispered, “I was just pulling your leg.”
His game has been no joke.
On Oct. 21 at Oklahoma City, he went off, helping the Kings to a 131-120 win, their first of the season. He came out firing, scoring a career-best 16 points in the first quarter on 5-for-7 shooting, 4-for-6 from three (both Kings season-team-highs). He finished the game with 26 points, one short of his career-best. He scored 23 points (9-18 FG) with four threes in a victory over Oklahoma City Monday night.
For the season, he’s shooting just under 42 percent percent, is around 37 percent from three and is north of 85 percent from the line. The field goal and free throw percentage are the best of his career, while his three-point shooting is his best since 2012-13, his second year with the New York Knicks, who drafted him 17th overall in 2011. Of course, he’s still defending as he always did, ranking in the top 50 in the League in steals per game.
Off the court, Shumpert has expanded his galaxy of star power to television, as he, his wife, singer/actress/model Teyana Taylor, and their baby daughter, Junie, have their own reality TV show on VH1, “Teyana & Iman,” chronicling how they balance their work and family lives. The premiere episode hit big immediately, debuting fifth among the top 50 original cable telecasts for March 26, 2018, and the second-most-watched cable show that wasn’t news- or sports-related. They did a six-episode first season, and there could be more in the works.
“My wife wanted to do it,” Iman said, with a laugh. “It’s been great. We’re hoping for another season of it.”
In the meantime, playing in another postseason is his goal. It would be welcome in Sacramento. Having lived in New York and Cleveland, he’s found that Sacramento is a nice place to settle down and settle in.
“It’s a calm city, great basketball fan base, and the people are genuinely nice,” he said, breaking into a smile. “They have the wine tastings going on, they have some good restaurants. That’s all you can ask for when you have a family.
“I’m a little older so I don’t really do all the stuff I did when I was younger,” he added, with a laugh. “It’s mostly just about how my family enjoys the city.”