By Joseph Wetzler
I’m a 90s baby… I miss high shorts with long compressions… Arm bands on the off arm… Johnny Bravo and Dragon Ball Z… high top fades… Albums that tell stories… Genuine hate in sports… Guess I’m just a throwback…#post90s” – Iman Shumpert
When the New York Knicks selected Iman Shumpert in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, not many people knew what he was all about. Is he a shooter or a slasher? Can he make an impact right away?
Knicks fans now know Shumpert as the high-flying, high-energy guard with a defensive prowess that mimics Michael Jordan.
They got a glimpse of him in the Knicks’ opener that year, but Shumpert didn’t see regular minutes until the sixth game of the season. He started 35 games last year and won over the hearts of the most critical fans in America.
We know what Shumpert can do on the court, so let’s take a look at what he does off the court and his roller-coaster ride of emotions in the past two years.
Many athletes say that a career threatening injury changes their outlook on life. It shows them that playing the game they love will not last forever.
For the Knicks’ second year guard Iman Shumpert, he views last seasons ACL-tear as a “blessing in disguise.”
Shumpert was having a stellar rookie campaign, setting the tone for the Knicks defensively. He became an instant fan favorite and looked like he had found his niche in the NBA. Locking down the likes of Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson, and other 2-guards around the league was something we got used to seeing from Shumpert.
Then the freak accident occurred.
Shumpert tore his ACL in the first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. He crashed to the floor after trying to make a change-of-direction move on Mario Chalmers. However, like the unselfish guy Shumpert is he didn’t sulk by himself for very long.
I was able to be selfish and think about that for all of 24 to 36 hours, and then I was locked in on trying to support my team so they could win the next game,” Shumpert told reporters after the incident.
Coming into the 2012-13 season, still rehabbing from that injury, Shumpert has changed his priorities.
“I never thought tearing my ACL would be so big for me as far as growing up and prioritizing things,” said Shumpert.
Shumpert makes the motion with his hands with a smile on his face. “Win an NBA ring…and then family,” he says.
Being only 22 years old, Shumpert is hungry for success and stability in this league. He grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. Living just outside of Chicago in the 1990’s, NBA Championships were something people got used to.
1990 was when the Jordan dynasty began in Chicago. It was also the year Shumpert was born and for being such a young kid, Shumpert is pretty old school.
Oak Park, Illinois
Shumpert came up through middle and a high school dominating for the teams he played on. In 8th grade, Shumpert was teammates with current NBA player Evan Turner on their middle school team. As a senior, he was first team all state and ranked as one of the top-30 seniors in the country. He was selected as a McDonald’s High School All-American in 2008, taking his talents to Georgia Tech.
In his junior year Shumpert put up very Jason Kidd-like stats (17.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 2.7 SPG). By leading his team scoring, assists, and rebounds, he became only the seventh player in ACC history to do so.
Now the player he modeled his game after is his teammate. Not many players get to play with their idols and Shumpert is taking full advantage of it. “Shump”, as his teammates call him, is the youngest Knick by five years.
The throwback Shumpert also dons a throwback haircut. The high flattop fade is a new look for him this year and he has no plans on cutting it anytime soon. Reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins and Kenny Walker, Shumpert is trying to bring back the old-school hairstyle.
21 Shump Street
The defensive ability of Iman Shumpert is something Knicks’ fans noticed right away. In a league where defense is not a focal point for many players, Shumpert is relentless. Shumpert and center Tyson Chandler are two of the best defenders in the league, something the Knicks haven’t had in many years. In his first year in the league, he received high praise from teammates and coaches.
Former teammate Jared Jeffries said that, “he’s about as good an on-ball defender as there is in the league right now”.
“He changes the game from the defensive standpoint,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said.
Much like New York Jets Cornerback Darrelle Revis and his “Revis Island”, Shumpert has a nickname as well. Modeled after the movie “21 Jump Street”, NBA Players now can get stranded on “21 Shump Street”.
The Real Iman
Off of the court, Shumpert is a straight shooter that will tell you exactly how he feels. Even as a rookie he would trash talk opponents and even stared down the ultimate intimidator, Kevin Garnett.
Saying Iman Shumpert loves sneakers is an understatement. He has attended the last two Sneaker Cons in New York City, where sneaker enthusiasts buy, sell, and trade some of the most desired sneakers in the world. Shumpert once admitted to spending $6,000 on a pair of sneakers.
“Some people save their money for a CLK Benz, but I didn’t want a Benz because I didn’t know cars…I know sneakers,” said Shumpert.
Music is also an integral part of Shumpert’s life. He has a rap mix tape called “Phitted Hats N Nike Shoes,” and also has his own SoundCloud page. His sound mirrors himself: old school, expressive, and true.
Iman Shumpert is as real of a person as you will ever meet. On the court he’s a ferocious competitor where defense is his number one priority. If you were a fan of the NBA during the Jordan-era, then you’ll enjoy watching Shumpert play. He’s an old school player; with an old school hair cut that spits old school raps.
Iman Shumpert is an up-and-coming star in this league. Hopefully he stays healthy and has a long career because I know we will all enjoy watching him play and develop into a key member of the New York Knicks for the long run.