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Monday, September 27th, 2010 at 8:00 am  |  47 responses

Top 50: Kevin Garnett, no. 29

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Adam Sweeney / @AdamSweeney

There should be a dictionary filled with terms related to NBA players. If we were so lucky, Kevin Garnett would have entire pages devoted to him. Allow us to expand on the vernacular associated with the Big Ticket.

Intense- adj.- \in-ˈten(t)-sə-tē\

The quality or state of being intense; especially : an extreme degree of strength, force, energy, or feeling.

There is not another player in the Association who brings the type Kevin Garnettof energy or emotion that KG does. He treats every game like it was Game Seven of the NBA Finals, whether he is going up against the L.A. Clippers or the L.A. Lakers. Watching him get prepped for a game, you’d half expect him to be entering the cage of a UFC fight. The cat makes me want to turn the TV off and head out to the court when I see him get worked up. Imagine what his energy does for his teammates. To be on the side of Kevin Garnett means you ride into battle with a fearless partner. He fears no opponent and your doubts only fuel his fire.

That intensity flows through his defensive mentality, which changed the entire attitude of the Boston Celtics when he came to the organization. His trash talk is the stuff of legends, allowing him to get into his opponent’s head. Ask Dwight Howard about that. When KG steps onto the court, as soon as he ceremoniously presses his head against the goalpost, he is a man possessed. We dare you to get in his path.

Loyal- adj.- \ˈlȯi(-ə)l\

Unswerving in allegiance: faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product.

One of the reasons LeBron James allegedly considered going to the Miami Heat was centered around his discussion with Kevin Garnett in a brief exchange after Garnett’s Boston Celtics dismissed “King James” from the playoffs last season. Garnett has lived the life of LeBron, at least in terms of having to decide whether stay with his original team or to bounce. Garnett, in a sense, was the Anti-LeBron and stayed with Minnesota in spite of the crystal clear fact that he wasn’t being surrounded with the talent he needed to win a title. He practically begged for help and only left for greener pastures, literally, when all hope was lost. KG didn’t want LeBron to make the same decision he had without understanding the toll it takes on you.

To quote Inception, KG left LeBron with a question; Do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone? The difference between the two superstars’ situations was that LeBron was surrounded with talent Garnett could only dream of during his stay with the Timberwolves. KG was dying one game at a time.

Heart- noun- \ˈhärt\

The essential or most vital part of something.

There are certain players whose careers can’t be qualified by stats alone. Allen Iverson is a Hall of Famer just as much for his reckless attack towards the basket as his speed and skill. Garnett’s body may be wearing down after nearly two decades of battling down low in the Association, but his heart beats as strongly as it did when he was a rookie, perhaps even stronger. When Garnett pounds his chest and lets out a primal scream after a big play, it isn’t to be boisterous or to show up an opponent. It’s a reminder to everyone that he is still here, that there is always hope as long as his weapon of choice is still beating.

“Why don’t you talk about his smooth shot or his killer defense,” you may ask.” The answer is elementary. Every portion of Kevin Garnett’s game is fueled by the intangibles and drive that flows through the bloodstream of one of the greatest players of all-time. Stats don’t come close to describing what makes him important to the game.

At the All-Star Game last season, some journalists joked that Garnett would be lucky to dunk a ball anymore. You have to wonder if they ever expereienced the pain of rehabilitation after knee surgery. Garnett made them eat their words, averaging fifteen points and seven rebounds in the playoffs. He still is the unquestioned heart of the Boston Celtics. Anyone who doubts that should go back two years and see how Boston handled his absence in the 2009 playoffs.

Kevin Garnett enters his sixteenth season this year. Think about that for a second. He has played at an All-Star level longer than Justin Bieber has been alive. Knowing KG, he will stay in the game for as long as he can stand. He was a winner long before he got his ring in Beantown. When he leaves the game there will be a void that is indescribable. That’s because we will have to come up with a new word to describe the passion, effort and drive Garnett brought to the NBA. The word champion will have to do for now. And if you think the idea of KG having his own word is ridiculous, you’re wrong. We’ll quote the man himself. “Anything is possible.”

SLAMonline TOP 50 PLAYERS OVERALL RANK POSITION RANK
Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 8 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR
Brook Lopez Nets C 33 NR 2 NR
Gerald Wallace Bobcats SF 32 NR 6 NR
Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 31 29 7 8
Tony Parker Spurs PG 30 15 9 3
Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 29 13 9 3

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • Tommy

    My favourite player of all time. i would love to see him get one more ring this season and prove his critics wrong. sure he has lost some speed and some hops but his work ethic is unbelievable and i think he is competing with no.24 for the most ambitious player in the NBA

  • star

    kg the beast

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    KG is the man

  • shu

    It’s a little sad that’s he’s dropped this low but I think it’s about right.

  • JTaylor21

    KG is still one of my favorite players but most of the lakers series were painful to watch for me. Dude was missing dunks that he would’ve annihilated years ago, grabbing 5 rebounds and struggling to hit the patented turnaround J he’s known for. This is a good spot for him because he’s the Celts 3rd best player at this very moment. Also Gasol did NOT dominate him like some laker fans would like you to believe, they were actually equal on everything except rebounds where Gasol killed him.

  • JTaylor21

    Also the media are FOOLISH for failing to realize that KG was one of the biggest reasons Bron choose to leave cryveland. They instead choose to report on negative and made up stories on why he left. Damn I hate the media especially the world wide follower.

  • t-sizzle

    i dont know about his productivity this season… it could make him lower. but i guess he makes up for those things a bit by his court presence and leadership.. wait, is that factored into these slam ratings?

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    One of my all-time favorite PF.. The passion, versatility, heart. Great write up. Though i don’t like the Celtics he deserved to have that kind of team and that ’08 ring. He’s a winner for me no matter what they say. Garnett made the knew look Boston.. He may retire as Celtic but he’s forever a wolf.

  • RoG23

    Garnett is a Celtic for life. But who could blame him? 2 finals appearances and 3 conference appearances in boston compared to 1 conference appearance in min. Whats the point of being loyal to a franchise, when that franchise isnt being loyal to you and creating the best team possible for you?

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    I think Garnett has had a so-so career. In Minny yes, he stayed but they had some good teams, but if people remember the series, especailly the one against the Lakers that year. Garnett played small that’s why they lost most of their battles. The funny thing is the Celtics struggled only a little without KG, but people forget that year the Celtics without KG were up 3-2 on the Magic. So is the team that much sorrier without KG. KG has been a very consistent player over the years, but I would take Chris Webber over him anyday. KG small play in the Finals help the Lakers steal the NBA Finals from them too. KG is a great player, but I cannot with a clear mind, put him as one of the greatest Power Forward’s ever. Just because he is having success with an old loaded team, doesn’t mean that he is one of the greatest ever. KG ranking should be lower, but his team made the NBA finals and was one quarter away from cementing his, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen careers as winners. Too bad KG game has dropped bad, but he still can clog the middle and play trapping defense, but his offensive skills is falling by the wayside. Also KG intensity to me seems fake and a way to show himself as being the ultimate competitor, but I remember him crying on TV to Bill Russell about some dumb stuff. KG has picked on scrubs in the NBA for a while, but shys away from the real ballers, but he is so determined to win. LOL. I haven’t like his overall game for a while and he will be shortchanged, anyway throughout his career, because Tim Duncan came along and made KG look like B2K. BOOK IT!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    * knew= new.

  • Sparty’s Law

    Based on productivity, David Lee should be higher than KG. Good write-up, though.

  • Silent Storm

    KG cried when he was being interviewed by John Thompson, not Bill Russell. The reason he cried was because of his passion and intensity for the game, and his will to win. Nothing fake about it. One of the most dedicated and hardest working team players ever.

  • 7 Mile Style

    “The different in the two superstars’ situations was that LeBron was surrounded with talent Garnett could only dream of during his stay with the Timberwolves”…Really??

  • http://dsfjklf.com Jukai

    Top-3 all time. But top-30 right now at the end of his career.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    Nobody wants to win more than Kevin Garnett. The passion and intensity that he brings to a game and a team are incredible.

  • Bob

    KG I hope will get 1 more ring to cap off his career.

  • http://www.twitter.com/notebooknick NotebookNick

    “He has played at an All-Star level longer than Justin Bieber has been alive.” Hilarious truth.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I’ve disliked dude for a few seasons now, was a HUGE fan before that, but I can’t deny his passion and energy for the game.

  • vtrobot

    @ the Seed: Leading the career 20/10/5 club with Larry Legend a distant 2nd = so so? C Webb is great, but he always seemed more OK with losing than KG does.

  • http://twitter.com/soulonice6 Kenny

    GREAT use of the Inception quote, my man. Next to Iverson, KG is my favorite player of all-time. It sucks that he’s #29, but due to injury + father time, it may be about right. Of course, someone will probably rank a player higher than they should be, and I’ll raise hell about KG being this low, but I have no problem with it for now.

  • the nerve

    DAT CAT!!!!

  • http://www.twitter.com/JoshElam JE

    Sweet write-up.

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    There is no way in hell I’d take CWebb over KG – either in their primes or in their decline. KG’s heart alone is enough of a reason. People may not like the dude, but nobody ever questions his heart or his will to win.

  • The Fresh Prince of Nsam

    Good write up Adam. KG is my man. Last year I was rooting 4 the Cs in the finals and it’s sad 2 c it when a player’s body can’t catch up with his heart anymore. The game 7 was particularly heartbraking and illustrative of this fact cuz they should’ve won the game, but in the 4th 1/4 KG (and PP) had no fuel left in the tank.

  • JTaylor21

    @The Seed, I was believing that you had become smarter but with that CWebb over KG comment I’m not so sure. Who the hell would take a very good PF over a Top-5 PF of all-time and a Top-5 all-around player of all-time in KG. KG over CWebb even on mars without oxygen.

  • Martey

    KG top 5 player all time…in Timberwolves history.

  • mems

    boy i sure hope aaron brooks is on this list cause if arenas and jennings are on here and not brooks then that would just be beyond sad

  • Tony

    Great article, its impossible to put Kevin Garnett’s passion in words, but I think Adam Sweeney got pretty damn close.

  • http://www.threadsandkicks.com.au Eduardo

    KG’s one of the best! Even though his game has fallen since the past couple of years due to age and injury his passion is still so inspiration and makes anyone watching him motivated to play the game.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    This is very generous since the list is supposed to be about expected production.

  • Heals

    Appreciate the love SLAM, I wanna but it is tough to argue higher…

  • http://www.oprah.com Doyouwantmore

    A**hole: Noun.- A person who is incapable of understanding both the social context and repurcussions of their words, actions, or attitude.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign mems. John Wall making this list and not Aaron Brooks would be a MAJOR Wtf moment.

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Sweeney

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the love. I’ve loved KG’s game since his high school days and feel privileged to try to describe his importance to the game. He has fought his entire career for everything he has. To see a player who is still so hungry and into the game as he is at this stage of his career, it’s incredible.

  • http://www.tvtropes.org Jones

    That Biever comment made me laugh. Go Celts!

  • JoeMaMa

    KG is a prick and I don’t like him. But in the same way that Mr. Mantooth abhors Mr. Burgundy, I respect him a whole lot.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    KG is getting old, but the second year back from knee surgery is typically a better year.
    So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve slightly if he can avoid further injury.
    C-Webb, as good as he was, wasn’t on KG’s level. The most glaring difference was on the defensive end where KG could guard 3-5. And don’t forget that for a while in Minnesota dude had to run the point becuase they sucked that bad at point guard. He literally was 7-feet tall bringing the ball up the floor against defensive pressure and crossing cats over.
    Now, I think dude has not always been the most clutch player, and I’ve seen him get swept up in the moment at times. But, he was still a complete beast, and given the injury he had to expend to keep his team in most games, I’m not surprised he lost steam sometimes in the fourth quarter.
    Also, check his stat line in the closeout game against Webber’s Kings the year KG won MVP. I think he put up 30+ point and 20+ rebounds and hit the clinching jumpshot.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Oh, and the T-Wolves had Fred Hoiberg and Darrick Martin playing key roles that year they met the Lakers in the WCF and they still took two games.
    That wasn’t a failure.

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  • http://www.goal.com Tariq

    I hear Justin Bieber is the Kurt Cobain of his generation.

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  • kos87

    Solid spot.His skills have declined greatly in the last years,but being a formidable presence in a very good team you cant put him any lower.

  • Luiyo

    My Favorite Player of All-Time!

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  • Andrew

    No Garnett didnt have a solid team when he was at minne, KG did it all i saw it when he played PG, C, and PF at the same time. The year they made it into the WCF against Lakers was the only year they had a solid starting 5 except for when sam cassel was injured and they made Garnett play PG as they had no true PG, their team was solid but not to the level of Lebron’s cavs in 08.

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