Detlef Schrempf: From Bayer 04 Leverkusen to NBA Stardom

No, says Detlef Schrempf, he couldn’t really be happy about winning the Bundesliga championship with Bayer 04 Leverkusen. “Since they cut the basketball, it’s been difficult to support them,” says the 2.08 meter man. Bayer Leverkusen, that was his hometown club, the launching pad for a world career as the first German in the NBA, the best basketball league in the world. Today they are called Giants, Bayer AG’s money, once millions every year, has stopped flowing for many years, and the third league is played in the Ostermann Arena.

Detlef Schrempf was Wüst’s idol

Detlef Schrempf stands on a viewing platform at Pike Market Place, the famous market in Seattle, the city that has become his home over the decades. The Düsseldorf State Chancellery has asked, Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst is on a trip to the USA, will visit Microsoft the following day and wanted to meet the, quote Wüst, “idol of his youth”.

Schrempf was born in Leverkusen in 1963 and grew up in Boddenberg. “It was beautiful. I practically grew up in the village,” he says about the small town near Leverkusen-Steinbüchel. When he speaks, he sounds like an American who speaks excellent German, but the American touch is clearly evident.

“I was the only Protestant in my class at the Catholic elementary school,” says the 61-year-old. In Opladen, Schrempf then attended the District Administrator Lucas High School. Discovered by Bayer youth coach Otto Reintjes at a school game, he moved to the USA at the age of 16. “That’s when life changed.”

High school, college, both stations with considerable success and championships, then in 1985 the jump to the NBA. His first team: the Dallas Mavericks, the club where Dirk Nowitzki later became a legend. It went on to the Indiana Pacers and to Seattle to the Supersonics, and later to the Portland Trailblazers.

Detlef Schrempf: Three-time All-Star

Schrempf played a total of 16 NBA seasons. The Leverkusen player was selected for the All-Star squad three times. The German basketball star scored 15,671 points by the end of his career in 2001. A special side note: During Dirk Nowitzki’s first appearance for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA in February 1999, Schrempf was on the field for the opponent Seattle Supersonics.

After his active career, Schrempf was an assistant coach in Seattle, founded a foundation for disadvantaged children and young people, and made a career as a financial advisor and lobbyist for the fish and seafood industry.

Most recently, Schrempf was regularly in Leverkusen, “three or four times in the last six months,” he says. Schrempf’s mother still lives here, his father has died. The parents’ house is still in the family, his niece now lives there.

“It’s always nice to be home,” says Schrempf, “to see people I don’t see often, but who have made a big impression on me. I meet old friends and teammates that I played with 40 years ago. Also my coach, Otto Reintjes. Without him, I don’t know, I would have played football.”

Schrempf says he didn’t know NRW Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst before the State Chancellery’s request. “I’m not entirely politically involved,” he says. “It’s difficult enough in our country these days. But when I’m with my mother, I read the newspaper.”

And then Schrempf also goes to the Bay Arena to play football – despite the anger over the group’s abandonment of basketball. He was last there twice in November. He is now equipped for his next visit: Hendrik Wüst has a gift with him – the jersey of the championship team, flocked with Schrempf’s name and the number 11, the number that was on the basketball jersey of the world star from Boddenberg.

2024-04-20 10:11:08
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