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Detlef Schrempf: Underrated Legend

When you think of the greatest German ever to play in the NBA, you immediately think of Dirk Nowitzki, who has had a hall of fame career with the Dallas Mavericks. However, there was an earlier German legend to grace the NBA who arguably should already be in the NBA Hall of fame. Who is this great German basketball legend?

Detlef Schrempf was born in Germany in 1963 and was selected in the 1985 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks with the 8th pick. He played in the NBA until 2001 playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Seattle Supersonics and Portland Trail  Blazers. Detlef was a three time NBA All Star!

But what made Detlef an underrated legend, mostly it was ability to come off the bench and bang a three but to understand the man, we need to look through his past.

Who did Detlef play for in Germany?

Bayer Leverkusen is most famously associated with the soccer team. However, Detlef played as a youngster for TuS Bayer 04 Leverkusen which are known today as Bayer Leverkusen Giants and play in the premier tier of German basketball. Bayer Leverkusen has won more titles then any other club in Germany and this was an excellent environment for Detlef to develop his basketball skills. Detlef was born in Leverkusen and therefore, playing for Bayer Leverkusen was an obvious choice. In Detlef’s later teenage years he moved to Washington state in America and attended high school for one year, notching up a State Championship with his high school.

Detlef College Career

Detlef entered NCAA Division One basketball by attending Washington State University and playing for the Huskies. Detlef played for the Huskies between 1982 and 1985, in which the Huskies ended up as regional title winners and ended making the tournament.

In the 1983-84 season, Detlef and the Huskies came up against Nevada in the knockout round of 48. The Huskies beat Nevada comfortably by a ten point margin to progress, where the Huskies came up against the 14th seeded Duke University. In a closely fought contest Detlef and the Huskies prevailed and won 80-78.

The Huskies were now in the Sweet Sixteen round of March Madness. However, the Huskies fell short against Dayton, losing by eight points and  therefore, their NCAA bid fell someway short.

Detlef and the Huskies did come back to the NCAA Championship. In 1984-85 season, the Huskies came up against Kentucky University and it was a margin of eight points which brought to an end the Huskies NCAA championship bid. This was the last season that Detlef had at Washington State and he would never have another run at an NCAA Championship.

When was Detlef drafted to the NBA?

Detlef was eligible for the NBA Draft in 1985. The 1985 Draft included Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone. The latter being chosen after Detlef at number 13. 1985 saw the first NBA Draft to adopt the lottery format. Chris Mullin was picked at seven by the Golden State Warriors and Detlef was picked at eight by the Dallas Mavericks. Detlef took to the stage in a tuxedo.

Draft Pick
PlayerPositionTeam Name
1Patrick EwingCentreNew York Knicks
2Wayman TisdalePower ForwardIndiana Pacers
3Benoit BenjaminCentreLos Angeles Clippers
4Xavier McDanielPower ForwardSeattle SuperSonics
5Jon KoncakCentreAlanta Hawks
6Joe KleineCentreSacramento Kings
7Chris MullinSmall ForwardGolden State Warriors
8Detlef SchrempfSmall Forward/
Power Forward
Dallas Mavericks
9Charles OakleyPower ForwardCleveland Cavaliers
10Ed PinckneyPower ForwardPhoenix Suns

Fresh out of University Detlef showed periods of brilliance during his time at the Dallas Mavericks, but never reached his full potential.  The Dallas Mavericks had only been an NBA team since 1980 and therefore wanted to make an impression. The Mavericks met the LA Lakers in the 1986 conference semi finals but ultimately lost in six games, in a period where the Lakers dominated the playoffs. The following season, the Mavericks stormed the Midwest Conference but came unstuck in the first round of the playoffs.

In the 1988 season, the Dallas Mavericks went to their first Conference Finals. This was an incredible achievement considering the franchise had only been in existence for seven years. The Mavericks came up against the Lakers who had defeated the Dallas Mavericks and Detlef previously when they met in the West Semi Finals. This time the Mavericks were dispatched in seven games by the Lakers.

Indiana Pacers

In 1989 the Mavericks agreed a trade with the Indiana Pacers, the trade meant that Detlef would go to go the Pacers. In return Herb Williams would go to the Mavericks. The arrival of Detlef and the Pacers having drafted Reggie Miller in 1987 meant that the Pacers started hitting the play offs and the true brilliance of Deflet started to appear on the court. If the Mavericks had seen this amount of ability, they probably wouldn’t of traded him.

When Detlef arrived in Indiana, the Pacers were in dire straits. The Pacers had been hammered in the 1988/89 season, finishing with a poor 28-54 record. Detlef joined the team as a sixth-man and was a great addition to the bench. The Pacers win percentage increased as the team bonded. The Pacers reached the 89-90 play offs but came up against the Bad Boy Pistons, who ended the Pacers campaign on the way to their second title in 2 years.

Detlef turned from the sixth man to a regular starter during his time with the Pacers. Detlef even went on to appear in multiple NBA all star games. Detlef’s last appearance for the Pacers was in the first round playoffs against the New York Knicks. The Knicks dispatched the Pacers and a new coach was brought into the franchise, Larry Brown, joined the set up and Detlef was a casualty of this change. Detlef was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics, the Pacers fans were not happy with this change, which saw Derrick Mckey move to the Pacers.

Seattle SuperSonics

Although Pacers fans were unhappy with the trade it worked in the favour of Detlef who joined a star studded team with the likes of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The SuperSonics were a force during the regular season in the 1995-96 season winning 64 games and losing 18. However, in the NBA finals Detlef and the SuperSonics came up against the Chicago Bulls and the G. O. A. T, Micheal Jordan.

The SuperSonics with the help of Detlef continued to dominate the Western Conference and continually made the playoffs however, they continually fell short. In 1999 and following a rejig of management personnel at the SuperSonics, Detlef contract was renewed and Detlef joined the Portland Trailblazers.

Detlef would end his career at the Trailblazers who were the arch rivals of the SuperSonics. Detlef retired at the end of the 2001 season.

Did Detlef play for the German National Team?

Detlef played for West Germany in the 1984 Summer Olympics Basketball tournament. West Germany had been awarded entry to the tournament by FIBA following the Soviet Union decisions to boycott the Olympic Games due to the Olympics being held in the United States.

Five games were played in the group stage and West Germany were drawn against  Yugoslavia, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Egypt. West Germany qualified for the quarter finals by finishing fourth in their group. Due to West Germany’s low seed, they had to play the top seed of the Untied States in the quarter final and were beaten 78-67 by the USA.

Detlef featured for the German national team in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Germany were drawn against the United States Dream Team, Croatia, Brazil, Angola and Spain. Having won two and lost three games, Germany progressed to the quarter finals.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Common Wealth of Independent States was the banner which the now defunct Soviet Basketball Team played under. Detlef and West Germany came up against the Commonwealth of Independent States and lost by seven, knocked out at the quarter finals stage again.

Detlef also represented West Germany at the 1983 Euro Basketball Championship and 1985 Euro Basketball championship which was held in West Germany. However, on both occasions the West German team failed to win a medal.

Why should Detlef be in the Hall of Fame?

Detlef is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Detlef’s three point percentage is outstanding given the fact that for the first five years he was a essentially a sixthman. The chart below highlights Detlef three point percentage against other small forwards such as Lebron James and Larry Bird. As you can see from the chart below Detlef maintained an average which was on par or better than Bird and Lebron. Furthermore, Steph Curry still hasn’t beaten Detlef’s 1995-95 three point percentage of .514.

The three point shooting of Detlef was impressive, now factor in Detlef’s field goal percentage which on average was at .491. Detlef made almost half the shots he took in the NBA. Further support for the scoring accuracy of Detlef was the fact that his career average from the free throw line was .803. The scoring averages for someone who spent their first five seasons as a sixth man is outstanding. Detlef benefited moving to the Pacers and then the SuperSonics and this can be seen, in the chart above as his three point percentage increased when he was given more time on the court. If the Mavericks had given Detlef more time, he would have been a franchise player. Detlef is an NBA great and should be in the NBA Hall of Fame.

What did Detlef do after retiring?

Even before Detlef retired as an NBA player he was already working on side projects. One of these projects was the Detlef Schrempf foundation. With his wife Maria, Detlef created the foundation in order to bring hope, care and assistance to children and families in Northwest America. Yearly events which help the foundation consist of a food festival in Bellevue Washington called Taste of Main and a celebrity golf competition.

Detlef with Tiger Woods

Detlef also ran Athlon Ventures whereby investors consisting of ex basketball players such as Grant Hill and Tim Duncan, received a return on on their investment. After nine years the fund closed and Detlef became Director of Business Development at Coldstream Wealth Management and has worked in that position for the last eleven years.

Was Detlef in NBA Jam?

Yes, Detlef did appear in NBA Jam. He appeared in the 1993 version of NBA Jam which in the team head to head, Detlef and Shawn Kemp represented the Seattle SuperSonics.

Why did Band of Horses name a Song after Detlef Schrempf?

Band of Horses are an indie band from Seattle, as they were growing up Detlef Shcrempf played for the Seattle SuperSonics. The song written by Band of Horses is a tale of heartbreak. The band could only relate the song to one feeling, that is seeing one of your favourite NBA players move to your teams bitter rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers. Therefore, the band named the song after Detlef Schrempf.

This another reason Detlef should be in the NBA hall of fame, if you have such an impact as a basketball player that a chart topping band write a song about their heartbreak at losing you, then you should be in the Basketball Hall of Fame.