Being Starstruck Isn't Uncommon in the NBA
HOUSTON – The NBA is using Houston as this year’s location to showcase the league’s premier talent and throw its biggest party of its season. The best of the NBA, as well as countless entertainment celebrities, are in town to enjoy the festivities of the NBA’s 62nd All-Star weekend.
Fans can’t walk down the street without being starstruck, and players aren’t immune to that feeling, either. These guys are meeting people they’ve never met before, and on Sunday, several of them will play alongside players that they grew up idolizing.
Take Joakim Noah, for instance. He and Kevin Garnett have had some battles in the past but there will always be a respect between the two All-Star centers. One of the keys to that respect is the fact that Noah looked up to Garnett during his youth.
“KG was probably the guy I looked up to the most growing up,” Noah said on Friday. “As a kid I used to have his jersey and have his poster…. To be able to be a part of this and play with him, it’s kind of strange.”
Strange is probably the best word to describe this particular situation. Noah went from idolizing Garnett as a fan to hating Garnett as an opponent. Now he’ll be KG’s teammate for the first time on Sunday.
Noah isn’t the only one who will be in that predicament. He’s one of seven first-time All-Stars who will have their first opportunity to play alongside the guys that they looked up to during their youth. Six of those first-timers are on the East's squad.
Believe it or not, Garnett was in those players’ shoes a long, long time ago – way back in the 90s. He was 19 years old when he made his NBA debut. He was only 20 years old when he made his All-Star debut. Garnett admitted on Saturday that those early years featured moments in which he was caught star-gazing. One particular case of that was when he played against His Airness, Michael Jordan, for the very first time.
“You find yourself, believe it or not, you find yourself watching him doing something versus doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” Garnett recalled with a chuckle. “It’s part of it, man. That was his influence on the game.”
These types of things can happen regularly in the NBA, particularly at All-Star games. This is the greatest crop of talent the league has to offer and all of them grew up as basketball fans. Some idolized players who are far retired, but others, like Noah with Garnett, looked up to players who will be on the court on Sunday. Adding all of those ingredients into one single pot will always result in fandom being taken onto the court - at least for a brief moment, like KG experienced with Jordan back in 1996.
“I think Jordan, his influence was so big, so bold on the game,” said Garnett, “that everybody that was part of that era was so into what Jordan was – copying, emulating, trying to duplicate – that [you could get lost in playing against him], similar to when Dr. J played, or when Bird came out, very similar.
“When you look up to somebody like that, you’re a fan, and you catch yourself kind of – (as he snaps his fingers) – kind of forgetting, ‘Oh my God, I’m in a game.’”
We touched on Garnett’s humbleness yesterday and we’ll touch on it again right now. He doesn’t want to make a claim that he’s in the same ballpark as Jordan when it comes to his impact, but he most definitely is. Garnett is one of the greatest big men of all time, and you can bet your britches that his youngest fellow All-Stars will be starstruck when they are his teammate for the first time on Sunday.