Kevin Garnett and Manny Pacquiao have a lot in common, namely this: Both men are the ultimate warriors in their respective sports, and they love nothing more than to see their opponents on the canvas, unable to stand, defeated in body, spirit and mind. Pacquiao is a huge Celtics fan, so you have to dig on him big time. The first eight-division champion in boxing history. The holder of 10 world titles. Boxer of the decade during the 2000s.
Is there a more intense basketball player on the planet than KG? If you’re in his circle the love is unbelievable. If you’re wearing another team’s uniform, or if you betray his trust, then you’ve got an enemy for life. Just ask Ray Allen. Allen can kiss KG’s hall-of-fame ass. KG has made that abundantly clear.
All of which brings us to Tuesday night. If the Celtics are going to defeat the Miami Heat, it will be Kevin Garnett who sets the tone and stokes the fire. He’ll need to bring the intensity from start to finish, and whip his teammates into a lather in the process. Guys like Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee are about to find out that the preseason KG is not the same as the regular season KG. This is going to be hard ballin’ at its finest. KG didn’t come back for a glorified farewell tour. That’s not what this is about. He came back to take care of unfinished business.
And the ironic thing is this: Ray Allen’s defection may ultimately serve as the motivation KG needs to lift this team to a championship.
The list of boxers who stayed past their primes is long and distinguished – greats from Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard thought they still had what it takes, only to have their bodies betray them in the ring. Pacquiao will be 34 in December. He’ll also be fighting again a few days prior to that, putting his 54-4-2 record on the line, not to mention his reputation and possibly his legacy to some degree. Will his reflexes be what they were? Will he have the heart, skill and stamina to outclass another opponent?
These questions ring true with Garnett. He’s old by NBA standards, no question about it. There are a ton of miles on those long legs of his. He’s been in the trenches, fought hard in the wars. Will he be close enough to the KG of old, or will he simply be an old KG?
Only time will tell. I just hope that both of these warriors go out the way that they deserve.