Keith Van Horn was the star of the New Jersey Nets before Jason Kidd came to town. Van Horn averaged a shade under 20 points per game during his rookie season in 1997-1998 and scored 21.8 the year after. Kidd arrived in East Rutherford in 2001, moving Van Horn away from the spotlight, and eventually, out of New Jersey.
In a feature with SLAM Online, Van Horn talks about his time with the Nets and how he quickly fell from grace, becoming a successful businessman following his early exit from the league.
Author Yaron Weitzman depicts the scene during 1997 draft with a decision looming for the Nets, fresh off a 56-loss season and holding the seventh pick in the draft. The team was deciding between Tim Thomas, a versatile power forward, or to trade up to acquire Van Horn.
According to Rowe (former team President Michael), the Nets were considering two options: Trading up and getting the 6-10 Van Horn, or staying at No. 7, where they believed they could select a talented freshman from Villanova named Tim Thomas. Like Van Horn, Thomas was also an athletic, highly skilled big man. "Calipari loved guys that size who were quick and could shoot," says Rowe. The problem was that Thomas was from Paterson, a rough city in Jersey. The Nets were worried playing close to home would hinder Thomas’ growth. With that, a choice was made: The team’s revitalization would instead be led by a lanky, baggy t-shirt wearing, pasty-skinned kid from Utah with a funny haircut and shin-high (they would inch closer to his knees as years went on) white socks.
Van Horn was the centerpiece of recently acquired coach John Calipari Nets team and led Jersey to their first playoff appearance in four seasons. However, the Nets fired Calipari early in Van Horn's third season, and, as Weitzman puts it, "Keith Van Horn’s New Jersey rise had just begun, and already the end was in sight."
As Kidd arrived, and the Nets went to the Finals in 2002, general manager Rod Thorn decided to trade Van Horn for Dikembe Mutombo, "whom they hoped would slow down the defending champion Lakers and Shaq." Coach at the time Byron Scott said that he didn't think Van Horn "wanted to be a great player." Scott continued to say, "I think he was pretty satisfied with what he had. He worked hard in practice, but he never went the extra mile. He seemed to be kind of fine with the skills that God gave him."
Van Horn then spent four seasons with four different teams, ultimately retiring in 2006 at the age of 31. Van Horn moved on from the game, wanting to be with his family more, which he began as a Sophomore at Utah. "A major reason why I stopped playing so early," Van Horn says, "was because my kids were older and I wanted to spend more time with them and my wife."
Now, Van Horn invests in several different ventures, with offices situated in Littleton, Colorado. Some notable investments are real estate investment firms, a school for special needs, and a mobile software company. Van Horn also spends the majority of his day running the Primer Basketball Club, a youth basketball program that reportedly trains 1,000 aspiring ballers.
- Touch Down - SLAM - Yaron Weitzman