Originally published in SLAM 23

If Kevin Garnett were your normal, Garden variety NBA superstar, his all too-public salary debate with the Minnesota Timberwolves might have overshadowed his on-court exploits. Yet moves like the one he pulled on the Rockets on November 19th ,’96 make you realize that KG’s rep is, was and will always be safe.

What started out as an innocent late-game possession for the T-Wolves, who were getting smoked in the Summit, ended in straight playoff pandemonium. Starbury was runnin’ things for Minnesota as usual, and he started the wheels turning on this face-saving play when he straight freaked Emanual Davis at the three point line. Steph drove the lane and dished off to James Robinson along the right baseline. In a move that only he could do so wildly, “Hollywood” tried to loft a shot over Kevin Willis’ McHale-like limbs.

The shot, a mere three-footer, floated over the hoop: airball. But Willis was going to pay for trying to block Robinson’s shot. Willis has been guarding Kevin Garnett, an now KG had free reign on the far side of the basket.

Lurking outside the key, KG was like a hawk about to swoop in for the kill. The ball—and Willis—would be the prey. Taking flight from the left block, KG collected the airball way below the rim in a position that would love any other player in the league with no choice but to calmly collect the rebound, land and make a move back at the hoop. But Da Kid is not like any other player.

He took the sinking shot, bought it down to his knees and then exploded back up to the rack for a vicious two-handed jam., all in one powerfully smooth motion. The once-proud Willis was left cowering beneath he rim as the ball glanced off him on its way down.

You may have seen putback slams before, but none ever rocked the house like this. And Kev knew it. He let out a primal scream that served as an exclamation point at the end of a brilliantly-crafted sentence.

So, again, what were you saying about that contract?

Ben Osborne