The Young Assassinator
A look back at a classic Kevin Garnett interview from SLAM 21.
By now, you should know that one of the two new SLAM covers features Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio reenacting the front of SLAM 21, one of our most iconic covers yet. But unless you still have the issue stashed safely in a bookcase, closet or basement, you can’t go back and check out the stories that document the two cover stars inside that ish—originally published in October, 1997—until now. Check out the classic Kevin Garnett cover story—penned by Scoop Jackson—below, and be on the lookout next week for the Stephon Marbury piece that ran in the pages after it, penned by former EIC Tony Gervino.—Ed.
by Scoop Jackson | portrait Jonathan Mannion
This is not an interview.
This is not an interview.
This is not even a story. This is a trip into the future. When the year 2001 finally hits and the new millennium becomes reality, there will only be a handful of people considered gods. All of them, unfortunately, will be NBA ballplayers, no heads of states, judges or magazine editors (damn). The Post-Jordan era, Part 11 (the Final Chapter) will have been in effect for a couple years and there will be no one left for us to pray to. Life, as we know it, will never be the same…ever.
This is not an interview. If anyone thinks I’m going too far with this god/NBA thing, remember this: I’ve seen people in Chicago praying that the Bulls wouldn’t trade Scottie Pippen; I’ve also seen people in Utah praying for Karl Malone not to miss two more free throws; I’ve witnessed people in Seattle praying for Shawn Kemp to come back, and I’ve heard that some people in Houston are praying for Charles Barkley not to come back. True enough, the “gods” are all in place, but this is only temporary. In two years, “god” may be running the point in Philly, and I really don’t think some of y’all are ready for that.
As we sit down, I look into the future’s eyes. God is in there, somewhere. It’s just that I don’t think Kevin knows this yet. People pray for him now, but in less than five years, they’ll be praying to him. This is why this is not an interview. This is why this is not a story: You don’t interview “gods”, especially ones in training; you just press the record button and let whatever happens, happen. Remember: Most intellects don’t believe in “gods”, but they fear them just the same.
Kevin Garnett: Sorry I’m late yo, my crib burned down, Well, not really burned down, but we had a fire and the sprinkler system came on and flooded the apartment. I got three feet of water sitting in my house right now. It’s been a long day, yo. So, how you doin’?
SLAM: Coolin’. Right now I’m probably doing better than you [laughs], but for real, is everything all right?
KG: Yeah, everything is handled. Thanks for asking. But yo, I ain’t seen you in a while, I have seen you since, what, the All-Star game? [My head nods.] Damn! So what’s been up?
SLAM: Been trying to get you and put you in Slamadamonth, like you asked.
KG: But I really didn’t dunk on anybody last year, did I? Well I did dunk on a few people, but nothing nasty, right? Wait, yes I did! I got Ervin Johnson bad! Like all up in here [he rubs his chest]—ughhh! Hold up, stop. I got love for Ervin, [he leans over and speaks into the tape recorder] “I love you Ervin.” Naw, Erv’s my man, I ain’t trying to get him mad at me.
SLAM: Don’t worry, this is for the cover anyway.
KG: The cover!?! Who? Me?
SLAM: You and Steph. Showbiz and KG.
KG: Oh yeah!
SLAM: But yo, what’s up with Steph? We were in New York, and I told him that I needed to get in touch with you for real and asked him for your digits, and he was like “I don’t even have his home number.” I thought you were tight?
KG: Man that’s just Steph lookin’ out. I just talked to him two days ago. That’s my boy. But let me straighten this out right now—this here, this one is for the books: I think when Steph first got to Minnesota, people were thinking, whenever you see Steph, you’re gonna see me, and whenever you see me you’re gonna see Steph. It ain’t lke that. Steph has a life, and I have one. Yes, we are cool as hell. That’s my man. I will go to battle for him, I’ll strangle a [muffled word] for him and he knows this. So we are close, but at the same time, we’re two different people.
I call Steph, “The Iceman.” You know, the ice. [For the ebonically-impaired, we’re talking about diamonds.] He’s from NY, I’m from the dirty South—I’m a country guy [laughs]. We’re just different. Steph, Steph is like a star. He’s got that glow about him. Me? The Chicago thing showed me a lot, but I don’t have that NY star, that NY flair about me.
[Both of our cell phones ring at the exact same time. Strange. My wife, his agent. We end our conversations at the same time. Real strange. KG continues…]
As far as Steph not giving you the number, I dunno. But I know I change my number more than anyone in this world, and he changes his more than me. Maybe he just had his guard up, you know? That’s my boy. But like I was saying, last year it was just like I was in his shadow, and he was in mine. It’s not like we ever talk about it, but we sorta know. We click like that—but he does his thing and I do mine.
SLAM: So if you and Steph’s backgrounds are so different, let me ask you a question: What’s the real difference between you and Allen Iverson?
KG: [Pause] Allen stayed in jail longer. And…Allen I think…Now don’t get me wrong, I went through some tough times in Chicago, but it wasn’t to the point where my Moms… [long pause] you know what, I’m just going to leave it like that: He just stayed in jail longer. I got straight out and it was over. But as far as the situation and stuff…Allen and I have been through a lot of similar experiences. And I mean a lot.
SLAM: Then why does it seem that you get a lot of love but Allen doesn’t ?
KG: Probably because Allen is more vocal than I am, that’s all. I’m an in-the-cut type of guy, you know what I’m sayin’? Allen will tell you what’s on his mind. Period. I think he’s the next Charles Barkley of the League, and people have got to respect that about him.
SLAM: You ready for next season? This is your show-and-prove year here. What do you need to work on?
KG: My whole damn game stinks yo [laughing]. I need to work on my confidence. My whole thing is confidence. Everything from driving to the hole, to hitting the shots I’m suppose to hit, to dunking on somebody. I mean, I have crazy confidence, but I keep it to myself too much sometimes, you know what I’m sayin’? Within myself, I’ve gotta have this mad-man Tasmanian Devil come out. Sometimes I feel like I hold it in when I should be letting it go.
SLAM: But will you still be able to control yourself?
KG: Oh, I’m always in control of myself. What I’m saying is…I have this crazy desire to be on top. Overall, my confidence is [hands move toward the sky], just confidence to be able to do anything. Like crossing somebody over. If you don’t put your heart to put into it or the confidence to think that you can do it—you’re gonna get ripped. But still my whole game stinks, that’s how I look at it, boy.
SLAM: [Laughing] Do you think you’re ever going to stop lookin’ at it that way?
KG: [Bugging] What?!? Hey, it’s been working since sixth grade, baby. Ain’t no sense in changing it now!
SLAM: You sick, yo. [Still Laughing] But I remember how you used to be a couple years ago—you’re lying, you have changed. I remember you used to act a fool out there, the things you used to do—shaking your head, sticking your tongue out at people after you dunked on them or blocked a shot, making crazy faces. I used to be rollin’. I hate to tell you Kev, but you’ve changed.
KG: Man…and that bothers me too. [He pauses for a while] I miss that. I thought that was special about me. For a minute—I’m not gonna lie—I stopped it, and it took a little bit of the flair out of my game. You know, shakin’ my head, and all that stuff. That was me, and I remember Stephon always telling me, “Always be real to yourself, Kev.” And he’s right. So you might see a little more of that. You know, don’t be surprised if you see me cut a cartwheel out there. That’s something I’ve been holding in…[laughing].
SLAM: Yo, just do a better one than my man Mike did…
KG: Oh, Finley! [We’re both rolling] Mike gets no points! That was…Mike Finley did the monkey! That was his impersonation of a got-damn.. monkey. Man what was he doing? Dog, I was on the sideline at the All-Star game, and I had to tell the cameraman to take the camera off me for a minute. You talk about somebody rollin’ [laughing still]. But for real man, I’m going to bring some fun back to my game—but I ain’t goin’ out like Finley, just kiddin’—you know I’ve got a sense of maturity in my game, but I also have to understand that this is the way I play. Having fun doesn’t always mean you’re talking trash. You can smile, roll on the ground, whatever. That’s just my style, and people are going to have to respect that about me. And believe this, if you don’t have fun in this game, things can be real wack.
SLAM: How’s Ashley?
KG: My sister’s fine. Ashley’s lovely. DKNY’d up. And even though she’s 16 now, going into the 11th grade, I feel like that’s my baby. You know what I’m sayin’? She’s been my responsibility since I was 14.
SLAM: Do you think about fatherhood?
KG: Nope, raising Ashley is enough. Even though she works, and I have her set goals for herself, she has her SAT’s and stuff out the way, she wants to go to UCLA. Even though she’s almost 18, going on 21, I still have that major responsibility. I mean, if something goes wrong, I’m the one that has to handle it. I don’t think about it, but it’s almost like I was put in the situation that I’m in, you know. So I guess that’s why I’m being…[he pauses] I’m not going to be having kids. [It gets quiet all of the sudden.] It’s not like I hate kids, I love shorties, but I don’t think I’m going to have any kids.
SLAM: Ever? Or are you just saying that now?
KG: I’m saying it now, but I mean never.
SLAM: That’s deep.
KG: I mean I think one day I’ll settle down with a nice young lady but…and even that’s sorta questionable knowing how women act… [laughs].
SLAM: Since you didn’t go, what would you do if Ashley walked up to you one day and said she wasn’t going to college?
KG: Ooohhhh. [Thinking] I’d actually sit down with her. Ask her what she wanted to do. Like I said, I’ve had her since I was 14, and I’ve been molding her to use her mind. I’m molding her to want to be a respectable young lady and to have all of the good things she wants in life, but to understand that all of the good things I have, she’s not necessarily going to have. What I have, we’ll share, but you know, I put in her mind that she has to have bigger and better dreams than I ever did.
She’s going to get her own, she’s just like that. That’s why she has her own job., she has responsibilities of her own. She’s real headstrong, so I’m not too worried about her. She’s never going to be in a position where she’s going to be hurt, but you still have to put in their mind that [as if he’s talking to Ashley], “If you don’t do it like this, you ass-out.” But if she said she wasn’t going to go to college, she’d have to come with a plan, a real good plan [laughs].