HOF-Bound Kevin Garnett Put the ‘Edge’ in Legend
Kevin Garnett was a 15-time NBA All-Star, a 12-time All-Defensive Team selection, a nine-time All-NBA Team selection, an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year, and of course, an NBA champion with the Boston Celtics. He is also the only player in league history to amass at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals, and 1,500 blocks over the course of a career.
However, KG’s path to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was pieced together with more than just statistics and accolades; it was paved with passion and personality. And that is what he will be remembered for above all else when as he is enshrined into Springfield’s hall of legends Saturday night.
Garnett brought an intensity to the game that was so strong, it was contagious. His mental toughness strengthened those that were with him, and it weakened those that were against him.
The Big Ticket’s philosophy was, “If you’re going to be anything in this league, you’ve got to have an edge … There’s no room for soft. There’s no room for a person who’s going to give ground.”
Garnett lived by those words and he made sure every one of his teammates did, as well. With the command of a drill sergeant, he had the unique ability to impart his will upon others and create a widespread drive to win. Such became evident almost as soon as he entered the NBA fresh out of high school in 1995.
At the age of 19, Garnett was drafted onto a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had never won more than 29 games in a season prior to his arrival. By his second campaign, the 6-foot-11 power forward helped to propel them to 40 wins and their first postseason berth in franchise history. It would mark the first of eight consecutive playoff appearances for Minnesota, which included a trip to the Western Conference Finals during Garnett’s 2003-04 MVP campaign.
Garnett further proved his ability to create a winning culture when he joined the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2007. Boston had just come off of a 24-win campaign, but with the addition of both he and Ray Allen alongside franchise cornerstone Paul Pierce, the Celtics pulled off the biggest single-season turnaround in NBA history, winning 66 games en route to their 17th world championship.
That move to Boston created a match made in heaven, as it paired the most passionate man in the game with the most passionate fan base in the game.
"The fan base in Boston was over the top," Garnett reflected Friday on the eve of his induction. "People would follow you home, people would stand outside your gate when you get home, people wanted to pump your gas – weird people. Like the fan base in Boston was just another level. But I learned to embrace it. My only regret in any of this was that I should have came to Boston a little earlier. Other than that, it was magical."
For six years, it was magical, and especially during that 2008 championship season when he won Defensive Player of the Year while establishing a long-lasting winning culture inside the Celtics' locker room.
“When Kevin first got here, he really changed the culture of everything we did around here from the practice habits to on the court, just the discipline,” Paul Pierce told ESPN in 2012, toward the end of the Big 3 era in Boston. “He made everybody accountable, from the ball boys to the chefs to the guy who flew the plane. Everybody was accountable. It was tremendous to just have him around.”
Having that impact alone was more valuable than having the ability to score, facilitate and defend at an elite level, as Garnett did throughout his 21-year career. There are plenty of hall-of-famers who possessed such versatility and who also racked up accolades in heaping piles, but none of them ever played with more passion and intensity than KG.
Garnett put the ‘edge’ in legend, and that is what he will be remembered for above all else as he enters the Hall Saturday night.