Jim McIlvaine

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Jim McIlvaine
Personal information
Born (1972-07-30) July 30, 1972 (age 42)
Racine, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Listed height 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)
Listed weight 240 lb (109 kg)
Career information
High school St. Catherine (Racine, Wisconsin)
College Marquette (1990–1994)
NBA draft 1994 / Round: 2 / Pick: 32nd overall
Selected by the Washington Bullets
Pro career 1994–2001
Position Center
Number 22
Career history
19941996 Washington Bullets
19961998 Seattle SuperSonics
19982001 New Jersey Nets
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 1,072 (2.7 ppg)
Rebounds 1,243 (3.1 rpg)
Blocks 691 (1.7 bpg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

James Michael "Jim" McIlvaine (born July 30, 1972) is a retired American professional basketball player who spent seven seasons in the National Basketball Association with the Washington Bullets, Seattle SuperSonics and New Jersey Nets. The 7-foot-1 shot-blocking specialist never made a major impact in the NBA, and is perhaps best remembered for the fall-out that occurred after he signed with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.

McIlvaine is married to Gwendolyn, a 6'7" center of the North Carolina's 1994 championship women's basketball team. He currently works as a radio color analyst for Marquette men's basketball and also as part of the online support staffer for Optima Batteries in Milwaukee.[1]

Early career[edit]

After he dominated at St. Catherine's High School in Racine (averaging 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 8.1 blocked shots as a senior) and blocked a school-record 399 shots at Marquette University, McIlvaine was named NABC Defensive Player of the Year and was drafted with the fifth pick in the second round of the 1994 draft by the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards). He spent two years for the team, primarily in a backup role to Gheorghe Mureșan. In limited playing time, McIlvaine exhibited tremendous defensive potential, although he was never given enough playing time to really prove himself in a full-time capacity (he averaged fewer than 15 minutes a game during his "breakout" second year). The young and inexperienced Bullets team displayed tremendous up-side in the 1995-96 NBA season, McIlvaine and young star Juwan Howard's second year in the league. However, the team's roster was already crowded with potential, and in 1996, Jim McIlvaine entered free agency.

Seattle SuperSonics signing[edit]

In 1996, a strong Sonics team, fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, was looking for something that would put them over the hump and enable them to defeat the Chicago Bulls team led by Michael Jordan. The team had one of the league's most respected duos in All-Stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, and a solid group of scorers in the middle of the lineup with shooting guard Hersey Hawkins and small forward Detlef Schrempf. However, the center position was lacking in depth, and currently being filled by 6-foot-9 Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins, who was too small for his position and was falling from his physical peak (Perkins averaged only 26.5 minutes per game in 1996). McIlvaine is said to have been hired as a "Shaq Stopper" and did perhaps as well as anyone else in the league at the time. The team's young backup center, Ervin Johnson, had not yet proven that he could play competitively at the professional level. Hoping to fill the void, Sonics management offered a seven-year, $33.6 million free-agent contract to McIlvaine, an average salary that was significantly less than the NBA average for a starting center but who was at the time an unproven second-year player coming off a season in which he averaged 2.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and two blocks per game for the Washington Bullets.

Seattle fans were upset,[2] and so was superstar forward Kemp, who had been asking for a contract increase after leading the team to a franchise-record 64 wins and its best postseason performance in 17 years, including the third Finals appearance in franchise history. But because Kemp signed a contract extension in 1994, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) forbid any changes to that contract until October 1997.

Despite fan derision, Jim McIlvaine helped the Sonics win its division in each of his two years with the Sonics. Following the 1997 season, Seattle would be the authors of a league-altering three-team trade that effectively sent Kemp to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the Milwaukee Bucks' Vin Baker, with the Cavaliers' Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill going to Milwaukee. While Cleveland gave Kemp the large contract he wanted, his play continued to decline. The year following Kemp’s departure, the Seattle Supersonics experienced one of its best seasons in franchise history, winning 61 games and the Division title, beating out the Kobe- and Shaq-led Lakers, and tying for the league’s third best record that year.

Final years[edit]

His first season in Seattle ended up being a career year for McIlvaine. He registered career highs in games (82), minutes (1,477), points per game (3.8), rebounds per game (4.0), and steals (39), while also averaging two blocks per game. His second season in Seattle saw him decline in every major statistical category, although he still posted numbers close to his career bests in most areas. Eventually, McIlvaine was dealt to New Jersey in 1998, primarily to open up salary cap room.

McIlvaine rounded out his career with the Nets, playing three injury-riddled seasons with the team. In 1999-2000, McIlvaine played 66 games in his best season since leaving Seattle, but injury problems and declining numbers continued to hamper him until his contract was bought out by the Nets after the 2000–01 NBA season. McIlvaine retired with an average of 2.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.71 blocks in 401 career games.

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