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Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 3:24 pm  |  34 responses

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.

Read again.

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].

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  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Damn, Scoop got great stuff. Cats must really like Scoop to be so open with him, or it was just a different League. This is a great interview and Slam is great for running it again.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    “Never. I don’t have a dollar value. There’s not enough money in the world to pay me how I treat this game. You can’t put my love on a contract, then sell it to me. You can’t do that. It’s like I wouldn’t sell you my mother or my sister or my family. You can’t sell that. You can’t put a price on the love I have for this game. This is nothing but love—to hell with the money. I been doing this back when Scoop Jackson didn’t know Kevin Garnett from Peter Vescey. You know what I’m sayin? Nothing’s changed to this day. I go in the rain, I hoop, I sleep, I hoop, if it’s snowin’, I hoop. Sleeting, hail storm, I hoop…”
    This is why my favorite players of all-time list goes 1. Iverson 2. Hakeem 3. Garnett.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    Great interview probably one of the best I’ve read. KG gets a bad rep sometimes but he seems like a pretty chill dude. He seems very honest and I can respect honesty instead of being something you’re not.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    I had no idea dude was from Chicago (well I did) but I thought he was from SC.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    He is from SC.
    But he had to go live in Chicago after he got locked up in Carolina. Moved up there with his sister, had his own apartment for like his senior or junior year of high school.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    That’s a damn shame he had to fight the racist attitudes and had to move because of it. I know he’s not a special case but that’s not right.

  • BoWeezy24

    People come up to me all the time and say, “You always hoopin’.” I say to them, “What you doin’?” Period.

    Thats Cold! Love That.

  • http://www.nesn.com/2012/02/kobe-bryant-says-hes-better-than-michael-jordan-second-to-wilt-chamberlain-as-best-nba-player-ever-v.html shutup

    That passion, is what made me a fan of his a long time ago. He was the fire Duncan was the ice. Brings me back to riding the A train to west 4th and even before I looked at the court I had to stop by the newsstand to see if the new ish of Slam dropped, he used to get it weeks earlier than anybody. and Scoop just had a way to relate to them, thats why they opened up, right on point Allen.

  • LA Huey

    “Within myself, I’ve gotta have this mad-man Tasmanian Devil come out” Word.

  • http://nba.com GP23

    This was a great read. I would enjoy seeing more of these vintage throwback interviews on here.

  • http://www.slamonline.com house

    @Gp23: agreed cuz most of the interviews lately of current NBA players suck b@lls.

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    DOPE.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Shutup
    I actually got into journalism because I used to read Scoop in Slam. I was going to do sports, was the sports editor at college, but then decided to switch to straight news because so many sport journalists I met seemed to hate the Leagues they covered. I was worried that if I started doing it as a job, I’d end up like them.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Beautiful.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com albie1kenobi

    with all due respect to every writer in history of Slam, Scoop was the man. if Scoop penned it, you knew it was a must read. he doesn’t write article. he speaks poetry.
    and that’s an awesome review of a young KG.
    Ben, can you hook up Scoop and KG, have them read the article again and have another “conversation”? i’d love to hear KG being retrospective on himself.

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Is it weird that I almost teared up when I saw and read this. I still remember getting this issue in the mail and the cover was messed up and I was mad as hell, so I bought another one just to have a clean cover and my Dad said I needed help.

  • http://www.nesn.com/2012/02/kobe-bryant-says-hes-better-than-michael-jordan-second-to-wilt-chamberlain-as-best-nba-player-ever-v.html shutup

    Makes sense, When I covered sports for my junior college I tried to write like him, using a lot of personal experiences in my writing, plus being on the team gave me an insight into things others would have never seen, like my boy throwing up the spaghetti coach cooked on the tournament trip to Maryland, because we were drinking straight Vodka while bowling after we got bumped. This issue probably was like the 5th one I bought, the first one was with Scottie Pippen on the cover and it was like the 50th greatest issue, been hooked ever since, I dont care if I only had $5 in my pocket, it was bought on sight, I only missed one issue, including all the special issues and that was when the lakers won the chip 2 years ago, every walmart was sold out, people in Vegas love the effin lakers.

  • http://www.nesn.com/2012/02/kobe-bryant-says-hes-better-than-michael-jordan-second-to-wilt-chamberlain-as-best-nba-player-ever-v.html shutup

    @albie that would be a sick idea, sort of like the barbershop sit down with Shaq,Penny and D.Scott. It was sad to see Penny, he looked like he had so much sorrow over the way his career went, he was smiling on the outside but you could tell he hurts deep. On another note the love of the game is what I see in Durant, thats why I am a fan of his, his fire reminds me of Garnett.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com albie1kenobi

    @shutup: i was sold on KG from day 1 and been a huge fan since. he may have been an a$$ to a lot of people all along, but he plays with such unbridled joy it was infectious. (in fact i’d say no one has played with as much joy as KG in his early wolves day, until Jeremy Lin blew up the scene last month.)
    penny was one of my top 5 favorite players and i think people don’t realize how GREAT he was because of his multiple failed attempts at comebacks. if his body had held up, he’d have to be a HOFer.
    as for durant, no matter how nice he is, i can’t watch the Thunder coz of the whole Seattle fiasco. The city of Seattle could have been looking forward to a championship parade nowadays. it’s against my principal to support the Thunder. i just can’t do it.

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla

    young guys during this era weren’t as conditioned to give trite pre-composed responses to all media questions. Nowadays the media has made it so that athletes simply can’t express themselves freely without being immediately given some negative label. You just can’t have this kind of candid convo about the game with any of the league guys todays….which is sad. This is a masterpiece, captures the essence of KG….even in his more immature years, one thing remains as evident as anything can possibly be….heart and passion simply emanate from this man

  • Robin

    Ouff! I missed the old school stuff. This cover is legend. lol

  • http://slamonline house

    I loved Scoop’s style of expressive journalism. It had resonance, it was exciting and it had mad flavor. I reread early SLAM’s so damn much it bordered on being obsessive compulsive.

  • Justin

    Love KG, but he sounded dumb as mess when he said his sister was 16 then he said even though she is almost 18, going on 21. Whoa. Math got him.

  • http://www.nesn.com/2012/02/kobe-bryant-says-hes-better-than-michael-jordan-second-to-wilt-chamberlain-as-best-nba-player-ever-v.html shutup

    Justin you missed the point, she was sixteen almost 18(16 is close to 18)and acting grown like she was 21, nvm. @Albei I feel for Seatle, the green and gold was iconic, but just as a fan of basketball you gotta root for someone that plays with such love, and Durant is as close to KG as there is in the league. Penny’s situation just makes me sad, I wish he woulda been able to come back, him and Steve Francis…..articles like this are gonna make me break out the tub filled with close to 15 years of slams and start going through them, talk about a trip down memory lane, I could literally write my life story by going from cover to cover, some of the slams folded in half to fit in my back pocket others dog eared from being in my book bag and that coverless reggie miller joint because I couldnt walk around with his face looking back at me.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Dagger

    This was amazing. Gotta love Slam.

  • Justin G.

    Man, reading ebonics is annoying as hell

  • allen3

    remember the 1st pics of garnett I saw was him wearing a penny shoes air flight one I think
    I became an instant fan
    and since then many time his memory cross those from penny in my mind

    like the lil penny ad where he told him to say hello to his man kevin garnett

    and those garnett 3 really looks like they belong to the penny shoes line
    jus my 2 cent

  • MikeC.

    Damn. I wish I’d kept m y old SLAMs. I donated them all to the library at my wife’s school.

  • Justin

    Scoop is cool, but he tried WAAAAAAAY to hard back in those days. Just be yourself dude, stop trying to sound uneducated. Ahh the delusional life and mind of the black american male….

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    SMH

  • j

    man how was old mates interview questions you can really tell this was from back in the 90′s “more game than the parker brothers” haha

  • http://www.nesn.com/2012/02/kobe-bryant-says-hes-better-than-michael-jordan-second-to-wilt-chamberlain-as-best-nba-player-ever-v.html shutup

    WOW, why do people insist on posting comments like that?

  • http://www.yahoo.com The Fury

    Scoop was the reason why I started buying SLAM magazine. Every issue before then was a can’t miss, but now it’s not the same. But I still buy it because I’m loyal, Slam is already a part of my life.

  • jub al

    I think the previous comments have captured everything that went through my mind as I was rereading this interview… Just can’t believe that it’s already been 15 years since that cover came out… Seemed like just yesterday…..

    And while we be talking about mid to late 90′s stars, how about my man Grant Hill? Anybody remember when he ….ahem…. Just like Mike, Only Better? That was, hands down, THE best cover ever….

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