“I am who I am because of those around me.”
Standing in the same room as Kevin Garnett is an interesting experience. Never in your life will you feel so invisible. I say this because you literally will be entirely and completely invisible in the Celtics locker room during pregame media availability.
Not that Kevin will be unaccommodating or unpleasant, he just truly will not see you. Or anyone else who is not wearing Celtics green. You want to talk about intensity, this man embodies it. We all know this, say this, hear this and think it, but to experience it in the flesh, it’s something that is indescribable.
You know how they say that genius is only a step away from madness? This applies to K.G. in the athletic realm. Kevin Garnett straddles the line dividing intensity and insanity better than anyone.
K.G. has also passed this down, allowing it to filter down through his team, player by player, staff member by staff member and now, the Boston Celtics are entirely and completely untouchable. At least in their own minds.
When they say they believe that the only people who can defeat them are themselves, they mean it. You feel it when you step into that locker room. Vibrant energy emanating from extreme focus, the quiet storm of intensity, the combination engulfs you, swallowing you whole and before you become aware of what is happening, you are invisible. Not even a spectator, you fade into black. Or at least, into the backdrop where the only things that count are the 11 other guys in green.
A reporter approaches Garnett, notepad in hand, asking, “K.G.?” There is no response. He tries again, “Kevin, you have a minute?” Again, nothing. Once more with, “Kevin Garnett?” This time, Garnett turns and walks into the shower area, no flinch, no glance, no movement in the direction of the person requesting his time. He didn’t see him.
Rondo then appears on the scene, notifying the reporter that, “Yeah, he doesn’t talk pregame.” As though it is normal to be dismissed in this fashion. When the topic turns to Rondo himself and whether he can give a moment or two, he quickly says that he has to go shower. Another routine. This one started by Ray Allen.
One by one, as the players finish getting dressed, each have a reason for why they are unable to talk. A star like K.G., it is almost expected. On this team, every player is as much of a star as the stars surrounding them. At least in their minds.
Ubuntu, at its finest.
Showers after shooting around and before game time. Two sticks of gum that have to be handed to a star player by a star PR member. Fist pounds that need to be given, meticulously. The Celtics have their routines, regimens and rituals that simply cannot be broken. They cannot, do not, will not, deviate from these habits. Why would they, when they ended up with a championship last year and are demanding nothing less again this time around?
While other teams are starting to accuse them of being rough and tumble, having heads that may be getting too big, encouraging the refs to keep their eyes on the Celtics, it doesn’t bother Boston. It doesn’t bother Boston because unless it comes from their coach or one of their veteran leaders, they don’t hear you.
Fan, media, opponent. One and the same, to this team. There is a world of shamrocks and Celtic pride and then there is everyone else. If you fall into the latter, you do not exist until after the game and after another victory has been earned, tucked into the back pocket and filed away.
Once the triumph has been attained, the sopping, sweat-soaked jerseys are slipped off and minute by minute, the armor that keeps the rest of the world on the outside begins to fade. While we are all various degrees of gray pregame, the color slowly begins to include more than just shades of green as we are now allowed to join this post-game scene.
Going through the motions, sitting at lockers, getting dressed, and checking phones for messages that were left while they were on their own planet, this is all another part of the routine, only this one, we are all familiar with.
These players who only a couple of hours ago seemed as though they were on a different plain, are now back onto our level, joking, talking, laughing and smiling. Interacting with the rest of the real world because their reality is one that is split into two distinct parts.
Before Game and After Game. They’ve got it down to a science. It’s an art form for this organization that has been used to being the best and now gets to reclaim what they feel is their rightful place at the top of the mountain. With enough preparation, dedication and simplistic routine, they are confident that there they will stay.
They will stay there because this was only game 15 out of 82. With 67 more regular season wins to left to fight for and another 16 playoff victories that they feel belong to them, there will be more time living in the Before Game reality than the After because, when they are in their own world, they are entirely untouchable.
And if you don’t think so, it doesn’t matter. You are invisible anyway.