Detlef Schrempf’s Pivot from NBA Star to Social Justice Advocate
The former basketball player has gone from fighting for rebounds to fighting against racism
Forward Detlef Schrempf was one of the most useful players in the NBA during a 16-year career as a star. He seemed to do a little bit of everything, filling in the score sheet from every imaginable angle. Now years after he retired as a player, he is still working hard and being useful as ever, except now something even more important than basketball — erasing hate.
Born in Germany, Schrempf came to the United States as a high school senior and ultimately enrolled at the University of Washington, where he starred for their basketball team. The 6'10" forward could score from anywhere on the floor in addition to rebound and pass. It thus came as little surprise when the Dallas Mavericks drafted him with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 1985 draft.
During the course of his career, he played for four teams, leaving Dallas after four seasons of primarily coming off their bench. He found more playing time and even greater success with the Indiana Pacers, Seattle Supersonics and Portland Trailblazers before he retired. In total, he averaged 13.9 rebounds, 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists, while making three All-Star teams. Showing himself to be ahead of the times, he was also an excellent outside shooter for a big man, hitting 38.4 percent of his three-point attempts for his career. Although he never was part of a championship team, he was in the playoffs every year of his career but two, playing in a total of 114 postseason games.
Schrempf has always been heavily involved in charitable work, establishing the Detlef Schrempf Foundation in 1996 and winning the Paul Allen Award for Citizenship in 2012. However, he has only continued to take that to new heights. He has also launched an Erase the Hate campaign developed to combat racism, powered by the Cauze app. Joined by a number of well-known athletes and celebrities like Bill Russell, Jamal Crawford and Macklemore, the initiative raises money and brings awareness to social justice and fighting prejudice. Check out their website if you’d like more information or to make a donation.
Recently, Schrempf answered some questions about his basketball career and his exciting work with Erase the Hate.
What moment are you proudest of from your basketball career and why?: I am proud of my basketball career, because it seemed improbable that a kid from Leverkusen who did not play basketball until he was 13 years old could end up playing 16 years in the NBA. I love the game and can only judge myself by how close I got to my potential and I think I got as close to it as anybody.
What was the best team you ever played on?: I loved playing for the Sonics because it was home, plus we were really good for five years and in contention every year playing in front of a sold out arena every game!
If there was something from your basketball career you could do over again, what would that be and why?: I would not have signed with the Blazers at the end of my career. I wanted to win a championship and loved Portland and the town, but the team was not set up for success and it was disappointing.
Tell me more about your charitable work with Erase the Hate. How did that start and what are your goals?: #erasethehate started after the George Floyd murder and brought us back to the LA riots from the early 90’s when we came up with the log for #erasethehate. Here we are 25-plus years later still talking and fighting for the same thing — equality, equity and justice for all! Our country, like most countries, has a lot of hatred to overcome and I want to do my part. This is not the time to be silent.
What is a future project you are excited about starting but haven’t gotten to yet?: I want to continue mentoring young people and make sure everyone is set up for success — and that means that they will have a positive impact on their community.