KG: We Used To Love Him
‘Same sword they knight you, they gon’ goodnight you with’ – Jay-Z
by Quinn Peterson
At times, I’ve felt Jay’s line perfectly described Kobe Bryant’s career, but that’s another story. Today, it begins to sum up Kevin Garnett’s.
A few years ago, you couldn’t have a conversation about the best anything, without mentioning Mr. Garnett. Scorer, defender, all-around player, whatever, he was at the top of the list. Or at least a viable player argument.
What’s more, you couldn’t have a conversation about somebody’s “5 favorite active players” without hearing his name. When in doubt, throw KG on the list. Who could beef with that?
The passion he played with made him one of, if not the most admirable guy in the League. We loved it. It transcended any possible bias. The intensity, the fervor, the energy. The loyalty to his team, even when though, at times, it was clear he was a “Mac standin’ around a bunch of PCs.” He was the game in its purest form, especially in a league dogged by the lazy stigma.
He was the guy you had to root for. We joke about Tracy McGrady’s inability to get out of the first round. Call him a loser. But when it was KG, we wouldn’t dare stoop to such lows. We empathized with him, felt bad for him. We knew he deserved it. When he finally won, we all won. TWolve fan or not.
Or how about when he led Boston to the 2008 Finals, capturing his first ring, transforming the city? There was a since of pride among all hoops fans. Lakers fans, LeBron fans, Spurs fans, no matter. If you were a fan of the game, you had the utmost respect for that man. Had you seen him in the street you’d salute him like he was a war veteran. The moments he shared with Bill Russell were epic. Greatness at its finest.
Or last year’s Playoffs, when his torment seeped through the television as he was forced to watch his team battle from the bench as he sat out with a knee injury. His bald dome buried in his hands, massaging his head. We sympathized and offered our condolences.
All because of his genuine passion for the game. His trash-talk and foul language were tolerated, and at times embraced. The translation was desire in its most authentic form.
The way he protected the rim after the whistle. Hell, the way he worked up a sweat before the game. All considered things of beauty.
He was a true warrior — literally.
“It’s for all the marbles,” he said during the 2004 NBA Playoffs. “I’m sitting in the house loading up the pump, I’m loading up the Uzis, I’ve got a couple of M-16s, couple of nines, couple of joints with some silencers on them, couple of grenades, got a missile launcher. I’m ready for war.” He later apologized for the violent analogy.
But the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and the demise is real, no doubt; it’s been hard to watch. It’s just painful to see a guy who used to roam the floor, capable of playing all five positions, relegated to under 30 minutes a game, looking like Joe Smith.
The athleticism that made him The Big Ticket is gone. Along with it is not just the production — because yes, his minutes are understandably down — but more importantly, the effectiveness. Even when he’s on the floor, he just can’t do the things he used to. A step late on rotations, an inch away on shots he once sent into the stands, lacking the elevation that once let him finish over anybody in the lane. He’s cracked the 20-point mark just NINE times this year. Chew on that.
Yet, there was still a school of folks who believed in The Kid. I was one myself.
There’s a certain part of me that has to respect an OG no matter what. The same way people did Detroit for much of the past decade. There’s always that confidence that, in the end, they’ll find a way to get it done. And rightfully so. But after Saturday night, I admit, my optimism has taken a huge shot. The QRich elbow did it. He said he was sending a message, letting his everybody know he had his teammates’ back. Interesting.
Now if you remember, which I’m sure you do (how could you not? It was hilarious), Anthony Peeler cracked KG himself with an elbow of his own a few years ago during the Western Conference Semifinals. (Sad to say, it’s no longer on YouTube. Shoutout to the Association). But KG, aware of the circumstances, was smart enough to remit, knowing his value to his team. He saw the bigger picture, kept his cool, avoided the suspension, and led his team to the Western Conference Finals.
Which makes Saturday’s actions and his absence from Game 2 that much more telling. With 40 seconds to play and the game seemingly in the bag, he just stole on QRich for no reason. No reason at all. Especially given the consequences which he knew would be coming.
It’s like he knew his own value had gone down. To the point that it didn’t matter if he put himself in a position to be suspended from not just a game. (But hey, maybe he did it for some rest. Ask Sheed.) He just didn’t care, and as a supporter, it hurt to see that.
Although we’re witnessing his game and capabilities slowly wither away before our eyes, that shouldn’t take away from his legacy. Unfortunately, it’s starting to.
As his effectiveness has decreased, the hate has started to come hand-in-hand. There’s been a direct correlation between his lack of production, and the lack of respect for him as a player. Of course, this will always be true to some extent, but KG’s situation is a special one.
As aforementioned, the passion with which he plays was once heralded and unmatched. But now … he’s dirty. Thing is, he’s not doing anything he didn’t do five, 10 years ago. In those same 2004 Playoffs, he hit not one, but two guys with elbows to the groin. Even then we didn’t call him dirty, just a guy who wanted to win, and would bite your head off if that’s what it took.
Talkin’ sh*t has long been his MO. Playing with emotion was all he knew. He won an MVP — and our hearts — that way and stacked up countless other accolades. His on-court antics were pure comedy if nothing else.
But now, the production is down. And as a result, so too, it seems, is the public’s respect for him. People act as though he’s transformed into some bad guy. Granted, he is a shell of himself stat-wise, but he’s still going to play the way he always has. Anything else would be a facade right? What, did you want KG to tone it down? Never that. And that’s what we’ve always loved about him. He was real.
Now, the same things he was revered for have turned against him. The people, in a way, have turned against him. Years ago, some would have went to battle for him. Fought with him as he carried teams organizations on his back. Now they’re ready to fight him for the way he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Can it get annoying? Sure. But it’s not like he Anderson Varejao. People have always hated him. Garnett, on the other, was once the NBA’s version of the People’s Champ. In one short year, accompanied by a declining stat line, the story has flipped. Now, he’s the villain.
As for me, I still wish the best for him, though I’m wary we’ll ever see him revert back to the All-World form he was once in, even if just for a game. But regardless of numbers, I’ll always maintain that respect for him. For how he played the game. How he still plays the game, with a win-at-all-costs, leave-it-all-on-the-floor mentality. Meanwhile, it appears as though others will continue to vilify him for the same things they once crowned him for.
“Same sword they knight you, they gon’ goodnight you with”