Top 50: Kevin Garnett, no. 12
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
by DeMarco Williams
This may come a tad stalker-ish, but I can remember the day, almost to the minute, Kevin Garnett became my favorite player in the League. It was November 20, 2002. Philips Arena. Visitors locker room after a 103-93 Minnesota Timberwolves win over the Atlanta Hawks.
The scene was presumably like any other T-wolves postgame that year. Reporters pretended to have questions for the likes of Kendall Gill and Anthony Peeler, but in actuality, they were only killing time ‘til KG, who had a routine night of 15 and 12, finished in the showers.
Other writers asked their questions of Garnett while he lotioned up. I, on the other hand, waited patiently for my time. It would come after KG finished dressing. I recall asking about the game and the progress of the season –the ’02-03 campaign would be his seventh straight leading Minnesota to the Playoffs- but right as we were finishing, I slipped up in my interview. And one thing you don’t do next to KG is slip up…
Me: Kev, one more question for you. What do you do for fun in Minneapolis? When I was up there with my girlfriend… Well, she’s my ex now.. Anyways, we—
KG: …Hey, that sounds like a personal problem right there.
Damn, even when heading to the team charter bus, Kevin Maurice Garnett is on his toes. I dig that. The rest of the National Basketball Association detests it. Be it a quick one-liner in the locker room or the fourth quarter with 10 ticks left on the clock, the dude is always ready for whatever comes his way.
Throw a high school fight and accusations of gang activity at him as a teenager. It’s nothing. The South Carolina native merely packs his ish and moves to Chicago and becomes even more of a prep hoops legend.
Throw a young franchise like the Timberwolves that knows nothing of winning or playoff appearances before his feet. He laughs and not only guides them to the postseason on an annual basis, but also leads Minnesota to the ’03-04 Western Conference Finals.
Throw a proud Boston tradition, one with 16 championship banners but not a single new one since ’86, his way and you already know what happens. The most versatile big man the game’s ever seen simply ramps up his intensity a few notches past “Insane,” averages nearly 19 a night and helps the Celtics hoist their 17th title banner.
Throw Garnett into the ’09-10 preseason with Orlando and Cleveland looking like certified contenders in the East and, amazingly, it’s still nothing. All 6-11 (6-11 ½, 7-0 or whatever the measurements truly are) of the Boston power forward was built for this. He knows that he’s gotta face Shaq and Dwight eight times. He knows that his rehabbed knee is going to be tested early and often. He knows that it’s been five seasons since he played 82 games of injury-free ball.
But he also knows that the great ones don’t make excuses. They make history. And while the 33-year-old Kevin Garnett has seemingly done plenty already for his own wing in Springfield (12-time all-star, ’04 MVP, ’08 Defensive Player of the Year, only player ever to average 20/10/5 for six straight campaigns), he fully intends to write another chapter in the form of banner No. 18 hanging from TD Garden at the end of this season.
And from the looks of a healthy KG so far this preseason, he’s already back to his vociferous ways on the court. Of course, Garnett cynics will continue to say the animated antics and primal posturing need to be toned down some. But like underground rapper, and fellow Carolina native, Cesar Comanche once said wisely in verse, “Those who hate it hate it for the same reason those who love it love it.”
Consider me a proud, card-carrying member of the latter group since November 20, 2002.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.