Blogtable: Lasting memories of Kevin Garnett
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
Kevin Garnett retired last week after an illustrious 21-year career in the NBA. What is your lasting memory of Garnett?
David Aldridge, NBA.com: I’m sure most will go with the “Anything is Possible!” interview after the Celtics routed the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals, and Garnett got his long-coveted championship. That was incredible television, to be sure. But I loved Da Kid version of Garnett, earlier in his first stint with the Wolves — the one that was high-flying, getting oops from Stephon Marbury, with Kevin Harlan going nuts on the call. Garnett was so accessible in those days (that changed), and you could feel the joy and intensity pouring out of him. He was so in the moment. I think everyone believed KG and Steph would play a dozen years together and win a couple of championships.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’d like to say that it’s looking up at Garnett, all 7-foot-1 or whatever, as he huffed and puffed, fist-pumped and towered over me after he had stepped up onto the press table at the horn of Game 7, 2004 Western Conference semifinals: Minnesota 83, Sacramento 80. Garnett had gone for 32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks and four steals in 46 minutes, dragging and willing his teammates to the greatest moment in Timberwolves history.
I’d like to say that but I can’t, because my lasting memory will be way at the front end, tracking Garnett down after the first practice of his first NBA training camp at Halenbeck Hall on the St. Cloud State (Minn.) campus in October 1995. He was so outrageously young then, the first high school player to hit the NBA in two decades, and he brimmed with enthusiasm and joy on the court, more earnest than intense in his first few seasons. In that modest setting, for a franchise desperate for something special, Wolves veterans Sam Mitchell and Doug West ran, hacked and literally slammed the teenaged rookie into the wooden bleachers to see what he was made of. During and after, Garnett showed a toughness and an eagerness that, rubbed together, sparked greatness.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Literally howling at the clinching of the Celtics’ 2008 championship. It pretty much summed up his entire career — fierce, hungry, ferocious and a lot of noise coming out of his mouth.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: How he may have changed the NBA off the court more than on the court, which is saying something considering his impact as a player. If he had been bad after being drafted in 1995, the hesitation to pick prospects coming straight from high school may have been much greater and interest may have cooled in 1996 on Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O’Neal. Garnett was not a standout his first season, but he was good. Good enough for the Timberwolves to justify the selection and good enough to keep hope alive for the high school products who would follow. And, his $126 million contract in 1997 became one of the factors in negotiations on a new labor deal.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Without a doubt, joining the Celtics and finally winning a title. How could it be anything else? All of the built-up misery from those unfulfilled years in Minnesota were exorcised and KG was removed from the top of the list of Best Players Without A Ring. He went from a scowl to a smile, and it was a long time coming.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: On the surface, the 2007-08 Celtics are seen as the group that ushered in the “superteam” era. But their true identity was that of the best defensive team of the last 30 years (allowing 8.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average). They illustrated the importance of defense — no matter how much talent you have on the roster — in regard to winning championships. KG was the anchor of that defense, a combination of size, athleticism and energy that snuffed out a lot of pick-and-rolls and set the tone from Day 1.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Watching KG’s emotions overflow after winning that title in 2008 with the Celtics is the image and memory I will always associate with one of the league’s truly transcendent players. Garnett started a movement of high school players being drafted, a movement that changed the landscape of the league. He’ll be remembered for his off-the-charts intensity, the conversations he held with himself before and throughout games and the relentless way he attacked each and every moment he was on the floor. I always appreciated the way he treated every game like it was Game 7 of The Finals.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: What I’m going to remember is the consistent reaction of the fans in Boston. Each night at home Garnett would look up at them, beating at his chest, and they would roar primally before the game had even started. They believed in him because he was the real thing. How many athletes are able to inspire and uphold that kind of relationship?
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com: Just what a lunatic he was, and I mean that in the very best sense of the word. There have been so many players who came straight from high school following KG’s lead, but I don’t think any of them, other than Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, have had the same maniacal focus on winning games. And while Bryant and James seemed equally concerned with winning in the business and commercial realms, KG never seemed to care as much about anything else as he did about winning basketball games. That type of focus and desire is as rare for NBA teams to find as it is to uncover someone with Garnett’s physical gifts.
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