BOSTON – Kevin Garnett helped the Boston Celtics add to their collection of history in the TD Garden rafters back in 2008. Now, it’s time for the C’s to return the favor.
The team announced Thursday night via a flashy jumbotron video reveal that it will retire Garnett’s No. 5 jersey at some point next season, which means the Big Ticket will officially be punched into the hall of Celtics Legends.
The surprise reveal came during the first timeout of Boston’s primetime matchup against the LA Clippers. Just after the whistle blew, the arena’s lights dimmed out and KG’s familiar voice came booming over the public address system. Fans looked up at the jumbotron inquisitively as a seemingly random montage of Garnett quotes and highlights began to play. However, those stares of confusion soon turned into gawks of excitement, as it became abundantly clear what was taking place.
Even the current Celtics players got hyped in the moment. Marcus Smart later claimed after his team’s 141-133 double-overtime win, “It got my blood starting to flow.”
The dramatic video ended with a grateful written statement from Garnett, to which the ecstatic fans responded with a standing ovation.
“I’m honored and thankful to have my number retired with the Celtics,” it read. “I will always have immense respect and appreciation for ownership, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, my past teammates and Celtics Nation!”
During his six seasons with the Celtics, from 2007 to 2013, Garnett brought a unique combination of passion, energy, leadership, and desire that helped drive the team to a memorable stretch of success.
He started things off with a bang during the 2007-08 season, as he played a pivotal role in guiding the C’s to their NBA-leading 17th championship, while also earning All-NBA First Team honors and becoming the first and only player in franchise history to be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
“We knew in 2008 we’d be retiring his number,” Celtics Co-Owner Wyc Grousbeck told NBC Sports Boston Thursday night. “He came in here and, I won’t say singlehandedly because it was a team effort, but he changed everything the minute he stepped on the court. He provided energy and commitment and drive and passion like no one I’ve ever seen in 17 years.”
KG was an All-Star during five of his six seasons in Boston and was named to four NBA All-Defensive Teams during that span. Over the course of his 396 appearances with the Celtics, he averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks in 30.9 minutes per game.
“Kevin gave everything he had to the Celtics in every practice, in every game,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. “And his unique blend of energy, intelligence, and talent brought out the best in his teammates and coaches.”
Garnett’s former head coach just so happened in the building Thursday night for the announcement. Rivers, however, was so focused on getting his Clippers going during the early timeout that he missed the entire thing. Before the game, though, Rivers ironically dished out a heaping pile of praise on Garnett in regard to the lasting impact he had in Boston.
“I think he was a great teammate. I don’t think that gets enough play,” Rivers told reporters. “He was a phenomenal teammate; he was all about winning. His IQ was incredible, it was off the charts. And I’ve often said about him, he’s the greatest superstar role player ever. Like, he was a superstar, but he played his role for the team anyway, somehow. I don’t know why he did that, but he did it. He changed the culture of this franchise. He really did. We needed a guy like that to come to the franchise. And he did that. And it’s still here. It hasn’t left since. So that was all Garnett.”
Rivers’ successor, Brad Stevens, concurred that Garnett’s legacy remained in Boston long after he was traded to Brooklyn during the summer of 2013.
“He had a huge impact on everybody that was leftover that was on my staff because he was so good to all those coaches, and then all the players that were leftover as well that played with him,” Stevens said. “He was the guy they always pointed to as the best leader they’d been around, on top of the fact that he was elite on both ends of the court.”
When a player delivers off the court and on both ends of the court, his legacy will often be eternalized above the court. As such, Garnett will soon see his No. 5 jersey hoisted to the TD Garden Rafters where it rightfully belongs.
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