I’ll never forget the first NBA game I ever attended. I was seven years old and it was the first time I ever went to a Boston Celtics game; and it was the second best experience I ever had as a kid. The first, being Fenway Park a few years prior, as I grew up a baseball player and was fortunate enough to play up until I finished college. But I’ll never forget February 1st, 2002. The Boston Celtics lost in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-95, and while I was trying to take in the once in a lifetime experience; Kevin Garnett of the Timberwolves was having one of the best years of his career while starting to enter his prime (as he won the NBA MVP the next season during the 2003-2004 season). KG ended that game with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Little did I know at the time, I was watching an absolute legend who would grow to become my second favorite basketball player of all time, behind Paul Pierce.
I remember distinctly, as a young kid watching his first basketball game, that Kevin Garnett was absolutely the most dominant player on the floor. At the time, I was playing basketball in two different leagues, but I can admit that my basketball knowledge at the time was at a minimum. One thing I did know at the time, was a few of the bigger names in the NBA; you know, the guys like Iverson, Shaq, Duncan, Kidd, McGrady etc. I’ll tell you one thing, going into that game I did not know much about Kevin Garnett, but after leaving that game I will never forget the legend that is Kevin Garnett.
If you were to tell me at that time that Kevin Garnett was going to be a Boston Celtic in the next five years, I would have told you that you were crazy for thinking Minnesota would give up KG. That brings me to the next date that I will never forget; July 31st, 2007. The mega-deal that started something in the NBA that really hadn’t happened before; the start of the “Superteams” (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen). Most of the teams with similar Big 3s that came before KG/Pierce/Allen came from their drafts mostly, not straight up trading (and now buying) your “Big 3”. It took Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, and two first round picks to get The Big Ticket, but it was well worth it in the long run. The Boston Celtics won an NBA title with that “Big 3” during the 2007-2008 season, where Garnett won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. The worst part of it all, is that the Timberwolves passed on guys like Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan for Johnny Flynn out of Syracuse with one of the picks they got from the Celtics in return for KG (#neverforget).
KG was the fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, he quickly made his presence known in the NBA by making First Team All-Rookie; averaging 10.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.6 BPG. He proved to be a versatile player who can get his mid-range jump shot going, while also being able to stretch the court and be the big man that they drafted him to be. Each year, KG continued to grow as a player, and only grew hungrier to try and achieve a championship. The next year, he averaged 17.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG, followed by 18.5 PPG and 9.6 RPG. He kept progressing as time went on and he started to become one of the most dominant players in the league.
The stats don’t give any justice to what Garnett brought to the table. You’ll never see a guy like Kevin Garnett ever again with all the intensity and heart that he played with. Sometimes, you just get goosebumps watching/thinking about KG doing his pregame routine with the quick head-butt to the under hoop padding. He was a mismatch for most guys who defended him or who he was defending, while his trash talk game was unlike any other. KG is simply the best.
His accolades are incredible and will certainly make him a future first ballot Hall of Famer. At 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, KG played 21 years in the league and played in 1462 games. For a career stat line, Garnett posted an impressive 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.4 BPG. He shot a career 50% from the field and averaged about 34.5 minutes per game. The Big Ticket made 15 All-Star appearances where he was the All-Star Game MVP once in the 2002-2003 season. Not enough can be said about KG’s defense, as being a 12 time All NBA Defensive player still doesn’t do it enough justice. Having a career stat line of 1.3 SPG and 1.4 BPG on top of double digit rebounds is incredibly impressive for a big man. He is 1st all time in defensive rebounds, and 9th all time in total rebounds. KG ranks 5th all time in games played and 3rd in minutes played. Besides the last 3 years of his career, his stats were fantastic and played seven full seasons and above 70 games in seven more seasons. The last few years (after he was traded from Boston to Brooklyn and then went back to Minnesota), KG destroyed most of his impeccable career stats. He posted numbers like 6.5 PPG, 6.9 PPG and 3.2 PPG while not eclipsing the seven rebound mark any year either, and all steals, blocks, and assists took a drastic drop in the 139 games he played in those three years. If you take away these few years, the worst year of his career was his rookie year, where like I said he averaged 10.4 PPG,6.3 RPG,1.8 APG,1.1 SPG, and 1.6 BPG in route to still making First Team All Rookie. That is absolutely legendary stuff from Kevin Garnett.
KG made 9 All-NBA teams, and finished 16th all time for steals, 17th all time for blocks, and 17th all time for points. With all this said, Kevin Garnett is almost without question a top 20-25 player of all time. Apart from his stats; his heart, intensity and leadership pushed Kevin Garnett to his limits where he was lucky enough to capture a championship with the Celtics in the 2007-2008 season; even though the Lakers and Kobe Bryant got their revenge a few years later. As lucky as he was to win a title and stay healthy enough to become a shoe-in first ballot Hall of Famer, I was luckier to have witnessed KG in his prime at my first ever NBA game and even luckier as a Boston Celtics fan that he laid a pathway back to Boston basketball for many future stars to come. And also on that note as a Celtics fan, thanks KG for hitting the road when you were running out of gas in the tank and letting the Celtics take Brooklyn’s picks. Even though the Brooklyn Nets didn’t work out like KG/Pierce did with the Celtics, I never lost the love I had for Kevin Garnett as a basketball player. He was one of my favorites as a member of the Timberwolves, the Celtics, the Nets and again as a Timberwolves member, and even though he brought a lot to the Celtics and their fans, he brought even more to the game of basketball.
So with that I say Thank You Kevin, for everything you achieved through basketball and hope you may enjoy your life outside of the game of basketball.