Top 50: Kevin Garnett, no. 29

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.”

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

• 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.