Once upon a time Kevin Garnett was the kid phenom from Farragut Career Academy, the first round draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves, thin and tall and talking shit to anyone who dared to challenge him on the blocks. Never mind that Garnett was rail thin and ill-equipped to back up the braggadocio, and that his rookie season was hardly a transformative experience or a paradigm shift in how the game was being played. Garnett was in your face from the start. He brought the bark. He talked trash from the get go, letting his mouth set the tone without regards to sensitive ears – hell, he wasn’t here to make friends or get chummy with anyone in an opposing jersey. This was all about talking it and walking it, and so what if the young KG was teenager playing a man’s game. He knew. Oh boy, did he know. Sooner or later his body was going to catch up with his mouth and his prodigious talent. And when that finally happened…
Garnett was in your face from the start. He brought the bark. He talked trash from the get go, letting his mouth set the tone without regards to sensitive ears – hell, he wasn’t here to make friends or get chummy with anyone in an opposing jersey
Just like Paul Harvey once laid it down on the radio, now we know the rest of the story. KG was much more than a talker. There was serious substance to go along with all that yapping. We quickly learned that Garnett was a throwback in so many ways, a player who hung his hat on defense even though he was blossoming into one of the most polished offensive forces in the game. He would pass up open shots to get the ball to a teammate in a better position. Not that he didn’t love offense, because the young Garnett rejoiced in delivering facials and dropping all of those perimeter J’s that weren’t common for players his size back then. But what really got him off was the challenge of shutting down the man with the ball. Blocking shots, altering shots, contesting shots…those were the things that charged Garnett’s motor and really set him apart from anyone else on the court. To borrow from comedy-lexicon, the man loved defense the way a fat kid loves cake.
Yes, KG was born to put the smack down. And he eventually grew into all of that bark, becoming a huge problem for anyone tasked with guarding him. And as his career started to roll so did the awards and accolades – 14 All-Star appearances, 9 All-NBA First Team nods, the 2004 NBA MVP – but as the personal achievements stacked up, so did Garnett’s desperation begin to rise. He wanted the NBA’s ultimate prize – an NBA Championship. He didn’t want to retire the Charles Barkley retired, or the way Karl Malone and John Stockton retired…which is to say, ringless.
Enter Boston and the Big Three. The 2008 NBA title. The culmination of a lifelong dream.
And now, Garnett is in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career, and in many ways he’s playing the game better than ever. Yes, he still talks it. But few big men his age have ever played the game as well Garnett played it during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. And he wasn’t playing his natural power forward position – he was playing the game as a center, reinventing himself on the fly, finding joy in the game all over again.
And although we’ll never know for sure, it may have been the position change to center that played a part in Garnett’s decision to come back. The Celtics run better, flow better, simply do better with KG at the five.
And now that the roster includes players like Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, you can expect Garnett to continue doing what he does best; talking the talk and walking the walk and trying like hell to win another NBA title. That’s just the way Garnett is.
Some call it Garnett’s modus operandi.
I prefer to call it a G thang.
And I can’t wait to see it on the court again this fall.