Rational, civilized human beings have a filter that stops them from saying most of the hurtful, rude, or explicit thoughts that might be running through our heads. This filter helps us tame our tongue and hide away the darkest, ugliest parts of our personality. Without that filter we'd lose friendships and hurt everyone that got close to us. In truth, we often drop our filters with the ones we love the most in part because we know they love us too much to leave.
In a similar way, we all have an idea of how far we can push ourselves physically and mentally. At some point in our life we have reached the end of our limit and our brains pushed a pin in that spot so we would know to slow down when we reached it. The most dedicated athletes try to push that boundary further and further, but once they pass it, they slow down and feel good about reaching a new high.
Kevin Garnett is a different kind of cat. When he steps on a basketball court, he lacks any filter and has no idea where his own limit is, and he just... doesn't... care.
We've discussed here how Kevin Garnett is a jerk on the court. I stand by that statement, but I'd also like to point out that he's extremely real on the court. More real than is comfortable for people. He seems to do this for motivation. He can't limit himself because he has an unconstrained desire to attack on the court. Things are very black and white in his world. If you are not with him, you are not just against him, you are the enemy.
The year before he joined the Celtics he got into a few on-court tussles with Kendrick Perkins (another pretty raw guy). Then they became teammates and they were like kindred spirits. I promise that the next time they meet on the court there will be respect and love but they will also go after each other like brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.
There's "work ethic" and then there's "mono-maniac on a mission." Ray Allen has the best work ethic you could ever possibly ask for. He is a physical Adonis and simply out-runs his opponent. He works because that is his routine. Kevin Garnett works because he has to. He doesn't know anything else. He is a car that was built without brakes. He can't stop moving because it just isn't an option.
I'm convinced that one of the hardest jobs Doc Rivers has is taking Kevin out of games and practices. There is a legendary story of Doc taking KG out of a training camp scrimmage and Garnett sprinting up and down the sidelines with the pace of play until Doc put him back in.
That constant movement is what sets him apart as a defender. Offensive players know that defenders can stop you once in a while but eventually they'll wear down and expose weaknesses. When they face Garnett they are annoyed because he's completely relentless and all the while he's barking at them (sometimes literally).
There's another legendary story that I remember reading about the days leading up the Timberwolves drafting Garnett. He was doing a modified Mikan drill where he pulled balls off the floor and dunked them from either block. Most guys wear down after a while, but Garnett just got more and more angry. He started yelling as he threw down harder and harder dunks. It was if he was raging in defiance of the fatigue. He would not give into it.
Some have said that he's getting more ornery as he gets older. As if he's a sad caricature of the former superstar, frustrated in his humanity. That may be true in part, but I don't see any difference between who he is now and that high school kid that he was doing that pre-draft drill. He doesn't see the end, he is simply raging against his mortality.
Some say that he might just retire after this season (if there even is one). I don't think he has any timetable in mind. I think that he'll play until he can't be a starter any more or until he gets seriously hurt. I do know that he'll go down spitting fire. He may be a sweetheart kitten off the court, but when he steps on the hardwood he's a wildcat with no filter.
Like him or hate him, you at least have to respect the man for being real and for never letting up, not even a little.