As you look back over the history of the NBA, there are some names that are so unique it’s hard to forget them. Names like Penny Hardaway, Spud Webb, Fat Lever, Magic Johnson, and Kiki VanDeWeghe have a certain jingle to them that allow them to stick out in your memory. Only one of these players, however, were born with their acclaimed name and that was German-born Kiki VanDeWeghe. VanDeWeghe is one of 25 players from the Deutschland to play in the NBA including other very German-sounding names like Dirk Nowitzki, Detlef Shcrempf, Moritz Wagner, and (my favorite) Uwe Blab.
Kiki was drafted 11th overall by the Denver Nuggets in 1980 to join three future Hall of Famers David “Skywalker” Thompson, Alex English, and Dan Issel. VanDeWeghe was a 6’8” slasher out of UCLA and his cutting ability and mid-range jumper led him to be the third-highest scorer in the NBA at 29.4 per game. Kiki’s knack for attacking the rack led to him dumping a career-high on The Detroit Bad Boys in his last year as a Nugget.
The Portland Trail Blazers paid a hefty fine for Kiki’s services, giving up 3 players and 2 picks, including our pal Fat Lever from paragraph 1. Once in Portland, KV started to shift his offensive approach which helped Kiki lead the NBA in 3-point percentage in ‘86-’87. Kiki was eventually traded to the Knicks for a late first-rounder. Kiki spent a quadrant of seasons playing in New York with legends like Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and John Starks.
VanDeWeghe retired out of the league after a 1-year stint with the Los Angeles Clippers before entering post-playing NBA life. Kiki worked for the Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets in their respective front offices before briefly becoming the interim coach for the New Jersey Nets. In 2013, Kiki made the jump to working with the NBA’s front office and currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.
As a player, Kiki was an early player to realize that in order to extend one’s career, it becomes important to adjust how you play the game later in your career. We saw this first-hand from one of Kiki’s understudies, Dirk Nowitzki, who was able to thoroughly extend his career by perfecting his fadeaway jumper. This model has extended to players still in the League like LeBron James and newly retired Vince Carter, who moved away from an attacking, explosive offense as they aged.