Jim McIlvaine

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Jim McIlvaine
No. 22
Center
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
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 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 and fall-out[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, who was at the time an unproven second-year player coming off a season in which he averaged only 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. The decision by Seattle's front office to deny Kemp a salary increase and to award a largely uncoveted, unproven center with such a large-scale offer is widely thought to have hurt the team's chemistry.[3] Following the 1997 season in which McIlvaine averaged 3.8 points and 2.00 blocks per game, 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.

The blockbuster deal is often viewed as a disastrous one, taking the wind out of four players who were just entering the prime of their career (they were all between 25 and 29 at the time of the trade). Prior to the trade, the players had a combined 11 All-Star appearances, and all but Hill had active, multi-year streaks. Following the trade, however, Brandon and Hill never appeared in another All-Star game, and after Kemp and Baker's All-Star appearances in the 1997-98 season immediately following the trade, they too were never again chosen to represent their respective conferences — with both Kemp and Baker undergoing now-legendary declines. Although McIlvaine could not be blamed for pursuing a contract that fit his interests, his detractors consistently point out that his signing led to Kemp's dissatisfaction and eventual departure from Seattle. Over the next four years, despite having one of the league's best point guards (Payton was selected to the All-NBA First Team as the league's best point guard in two of the next three seasons), the Sonics never made it past the second round of the playoffs. Indeed, after reaching the 1996 Finals, the Sonics would only win three more playoff series before they moved to Oklahoma City as the Thunder in 2009.

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. However, his performance was widely viewed as disappointing in light of his $3 million salary, and following the Kemp trade, McIlvaine was viewed as a bust and used as a scapegoat for the team's ills. 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. However, the Seattle team was deteriorating, and McIlvaine was dealt to New Jersey in 1998, primarily to open up salary cap room following the once-promising team's dismantling.

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. Although his career spanned more years than most second round draft picks, he is widely remembered as a disappointment because of the superstar contract he was offered by Seattle management.

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