Kevin Garnett officially retired from the NBA last week, leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves after a decorated 21-season career in the NBA. He left a memorable impression teammates across every team he played on.
That was true over the last 1 1/2 seasons Garnett spent mentoring Timberwolves' youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and others. In an interview with Jared Zwerling of NBPA.com, those players shared their thoughts on what Garnett meant to them and how he impacted their careers.
The personal impact KG has had on me is life-changing. He’s been the most important piece to my career in the NBA and one of the best friendships I have in my life. So I’m always blessed to say that he’s my brother. We bonded so well because of how passionate and emotional we both are.
My favorite memory of Kevin Garnett is not a memory—it’s more of the experience I had with him for a year, just enjoying that moment of being his teammate, conversing with him every single day, learning from him every single day. There’s no price that you can pay, no money that can buy you the experience that I’ve been gifted with my first year in the NBA.
Other than basketball, I just come to KG for advice on life, just understanding how business works and understanding how I can be a better leader and also be a better human being.
Kevin’s impact on the NBA has been felt around generations, including mine. His tenacity, his passion, his love for the game, the energy he brought every single night is something that will be felt for generations to come, possibly forever.
Him just coming in here changed how it was for our team. KG is Minnesota basketball, he is the Timberwolves—what he did, just the intensity he brought to the game. He was the realest one to me and on the team. He was teaching the young guys. It didn’t matter who you were, whether you were playing, not playing. He was the best teammate to everybody.
I learned so much from him about the game of basketball. He takes his craft seriously. His passion for the game is crazy. At the age he was, still coming to the gym, being the first one in the gym, the last one to leave, still having that same pre-practice routine with lifting, means he really loved the game. He didn’t have to do all that. He paid his dues, he’s legendary.
Even with him not here, I’m his little bro, so whenever I need something, a question, I can just call or text him. He doesn’t take long to answer back. He said he’s always here, and that’s how it’s been since day one.
From growing up hearing stories about him and watching him, and then actually being his teammate, it was crazy. I didn’t know how funny he was. He’s hilarious, he’s a clown and he has a lot of stories. He was just one of the best teammates. He was like a big brother in the locker room to us and it’s definitely going to be a piece missing.
Those moments with KG where it was just us two one-on-one, it was just life-experience stuff. He was such a great teacher, he was like a big brother, taught us NBA valuable lessons and then off-the-court lessons, life lessons. He hit the whole spectrum and you can’t replace a guy like that.
The biggest things I learned from KG were just work hard, always be intense and be ready to play and come and do your job. He was so great at defense, just being able to talk and communicate. He was always the loudest, most vocal on the team. Offensively, he said be strong with your move, be determined with your move and just work on your game. Even at his age, he was such a hard worker on his body and on his game. It was just crazy.
In the beginning, it was kind of hard to get to know him because he didn’t talk much to us. With him, it’s all about trust. He’s got to know what kind of person you are first and foremost before he starts talking to you.
But after, he was just socializing more with us. KG was a good guy for us, including me and Karl. We always came early in the morning and he taught us a lot of stuff. He was always telling me and Karl, “You two are the defensive anchors.”
Mentally he told us what to do, like, “Bigs stay together. Bigs help bigs. Bigs have got to be vocal.” Literally, he’d give us the answer for all examples we were going to face. So I think we have a good basis right now.
He gave me so many little things I need to do to cut down my traveling. He told me to make the game simple—pump fake, drive, stuff like that. He just showed me a lot of tricks that I can use in the game.
When he teaches you stuff and you do it wrong, he gets so upset, like, “Don’t mess up my stuff.” He wants everything to be perfect. It was life-changing learning from KG.
KG’s impact that he had on me was a very big one. As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I was a big Timberwolves fan and big KG fan. He was an idol of mine. So to be able to have a relationship with him is still surreal, and it’s something that I’ll never forget and that I’ll forever cherish.
Those times that KG pulled me aside, it was always heartfelt and it was always for my best interests. And that’s something that I noticed from the beginning. He’s a very genuine guy and just wants the best for you both on and off the court. So there were a lot of times he was giving me pointers or tips on things that don’t have to do with basketball.
He taught me that a lot of what you do in this league is your mindset and mental. So it’s the outlook you have on the game, the confidence that you have, how you need to prepare for the games, reading your scouting reports through and through—making sure you know each and every player on the court no matter if it’s your position.