Tonight is big. The Boston Celtics can close-out the Miami Heat once-and-for-all. After losing to the Heat in the second round last season, Boston is one win away from redemption. This WILL BE the last year we see Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen play together. After forming five seasons ago, Boston has made two NBA Finals appearances (winning one), one Eastern Conference Finals, and lost in the second round last year. In season five, Boston is back in the Conference Finals. One win away from another shot at a title is more than Garnett could ask for.
Growing up a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, my appreciation for Garnett extends beyond his numbers. It’s his heart, drive, willingness to succeed, no-quit attitude, and passion that mean more to me than his career numbers. Yes, I know he has missed clutch-shots at the end of games or that he only got out of the first round of the playoffs one time (with some help from Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell). But with Garnett, I knew my team was safe because he was always going to give us a shot to win. Along with his disappointments, he had some triumphant moments.
Game 7 of the 2004 Western Conference Finals. With an inner-ear infection on his 28th birthday, Garnett put on a spectacle. He recorded 32 points, 21 rebounds, and five assists and five blocks in an 83-80 victory over the Sacramento Kings that sent the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals. Even though they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, the season was the biggest success in franchise history.
I live for those moments. I haven’t seen the Timberwolves in the playoffs since 2004.
I used to live for those moments.
With Garnett gone, it doesn’t feel the same because I can only imagine him in a blue and white jersey, standing on the scorer’s table, chalk flying everywhere while he is screaming profanities to the crowd.
The red seats of the Target Center have long-been turned into ugly blue, black, and green chairs that have stains all over them and need to be replaced, a problem the red seats never had.
When I go to games now, Kevin is always the last player introduced. But his last name isn’t Garnett. It’s Love, Kevin Love. While I am very grateful for Kevin Love, it’s not the same. Even the PA announcer has a different tone in his voice and the crowd doesn’t believe 100% in his abilities, like they did with Garnett. It’s still the loudest roar, but not as loud as Garnett’s used to be.
When he was traded to Boston, I was in shock. Mainly because we traded our best player for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Marcus Banks, and four other players I can’t remember. Since that trade, we have sucked and Boston has flourished. With the addition of [Ray] Allen and Garnett to go with Pierce, they won the NBA title in their first year together. Garnett was named Defensive Player of the Year that year and rightfully so. He was the main reason they won the title, even though Pierce was Finals MVP.
I started to become bitter towards Garnett. He is the guy that you love when he is on your team, but hate him when he isn’t. He trash-talks, swears profusely, pounds his chest, yells, and does every other annoying thing to get under your skin. People have called him a “fake tough-guy”, “cheap”, “trash-talker”; Skip Bayless calls him “GarNOTT” because he isn’t as clutch as he should be.
He might be all of those things. But he has two things 99.9% of pro athletes don’t have.
Have you ever seen the man quit playing? Even if his team is down by 30? How about if they are up 30?
Have you ever seen him not go 100%? Has he ever thrown in the towel? Quit on his teammates? Been selfish, disruptive, cocky, arrogant, stupid, or in trouble with the law?
Has he ever been a little out-of-line during a game? OK, you got me there.
But here is the biggest question: Would you take him on your team?
If there was one game to win and a fantasy draft to pick teams, I would take him with the 1st pick. I know what I am going to get from Garnett: a lot of heart, passion, talking on defense, mind-games, and professional play. Even at age 36, Garnett is putting in work and getting results. He is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game so far in the postseason. No other power forward has played this well late into his career and been one of the main reasons why his team is one win from heading to the NBA Finals.
He will go down as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time, but I think he can make his case for greatest of all-time if he and Celtics win another ring. If you want to argue with me about that, here are some numbers to back it up:
NBA Champion (2008)
NBA MVP (2004)
Defensive Player of the Year (2008)
4x All-NBA First Team
2x All-NBA Third Team
9x All-NBA Defensive First Team
3x All-NBA Defensive Second Team
4x Rebounding Champion
1255 regular season games played
45,807.5 minutes played
Career 49.9% field goal percentage
24,270 regular season points
144 technical fouls
One Kevin Garnett
I have never seen a man, at age 36, play like he was 28.
It must be déjà vu.
- NBA Playoffs 2012, Celtics Vs. Heat Game 5 Final Score: Paul Pierce, Boston Slay Miami, 94-90 (boston.sbnation.com)
- Kevin Garnett Says He’s Fueled by ‘Owners Who Talk Too Much,’ Likely Taking Jab at Hawks Owner (Video) (nesn.com)
- How Boston gained the upper hand in surprising Eastern Conference finals (nba-point-forward.si.com)
- Kevin Garnett Drags Mickael Pietrus Back Into Celtics’ Huddle Twice (Video) (nesn.com)