Originally published in SLAM 113
The 6th Man: Over the past few seasons, the praise lavished on Kevin Garnett became almost backhanded. “He works hard.” “Gives all he has.” “Professional effort.” Noble qualities, to be sure, and our cover subject appreciates getting credit for them, but they sound like things you’d say about a seventh man who chips in on a winning team—not a 10-time All-Star. It’s also a little revisionist. Old as it makes me feel to write this, there are, well, kids out there who read SLAM who probably don’t even know that Kevin Garnett’s nickname was, for the longest, Da Kid, earned by entering the League out of high school and subsequently playing each game with the joy of a child. That joy was sapped by three straight seasons of terrible basketball in Minnesota. But now, relocated to a title contender in Boston, KG is smiling like a SLAM staff member watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Da Kid is back? We sure hope so.
Besides the cover story, which begins on pg. 58 and is basically a KG quotefest (my favorite being when he says Kevin McHale came at him “from the side” in negotiations by talking about his coal-mining father), we have an important story from the opposite emotional end of the basketball offseason. Eddie Griffin, coincidentally a player who KG tried to take under his wing when they played together on the Timberwolves, died after our last issue went to press. Wanting to cover his story but not content to rerun the same patronizing drivel most outlets trotted out in the wake of Eddie’s tragic death, we reached out to our ace Philly-based writer, Aggrey Sam, who actually played against Eddie and had a proper appreciation for just what a phenom Eddie once was in the City of Brotherly Love. Aggrey’s remembrances, as well as the well-reported thoughts he got from others who knew the one-time High School Player of the Year well, can be found on pg. 114.