How do you describe Kevin Garnett to someone who didn’t have the privilege of watching him during his playing days? The short answer is that you can’t. However, since I covered the team for the entirety of his career with the Celtics writing for this silly blog, I’ll give it my best shot.
There has never been and never again will be someone like Kevin Garnett. The only way to approximate him is to grab pieces of other amazing things and jumble them together in a mosaic of images that still doesn’t do him justice.
Kevin Garnett had the body of Kevin Durant (with more shoulders), the quick twitch of Robert Williams III, the defensive positional understanding of Al Horford, the midrange shot of Chris Paul, the unselfishness of Derrick White, and the competitiveness of Michael Jordan. Oh yeah, and the intensity of Mike Tyson. And none of that does him justice.
Kevin Garnett was THAT guy or gal in your group of friends that changed the whole mood when they walked in the room. It might be with a disarming smile, or a signature laugh, or just the way they treat everyone as if they are the most important person in the world in that moment. The vibe shifts in all the right ways and while everyone is aware it is because of that person they never make you feel like they need any of the attention. That’s what it was like adding KG to the Celtics, and yet that doesn’t do him justice.
Kevin Garnett is what I would create if I played video game basketball and could construct a player from scratch. Over seven feet tall, athletic, shoots like a wing, passes like a guard, and his defensive rating is through the roof. Could lead the league in literally any stat you can think of but always gives the game exactly what it needs. And still that doesn’t do him justice.
Kevin Garnett (according to every report and tribute video out there) was a unique teammate. He’s some odd amalgamation of big brother, loving father, clichéd drill sergeant, rich uncle, AAU coach, and mob boss. I would love to be a fly on the wall when a new player joined the team and a veteran sat him down to explain what to expect in that locker room. I imagine it would be something like, “stay out of his way on game day, listen to everything he says, give everything you have 100%, and never feed him after midnight.” Nope, still doesn’t do him justice.
Kevin Garnett literally changed the game of basketball like the Beatles changed music. And in a similar way, he kept on changing and evolving it over time. From breaking through the straight-from-high-school barrier, to redefining what seven footers do on the court, to record breaking contracts that led directly to max contract structures. He could have done anything he wanted on a court and yet he chose to dominate defensively and within the context of team basketball. Before there were unicorns, there was the original fire-breathing dragon, Kevin Garnett. And still that doesn’t do him justice.
You can look up his list of hardware, his championship banner, read all these praise pieces, watch all the tribute videos, and see what he meant to the game of basketball. All of that matters, but it doesn’t give you that feeling you would have felt watching him on the court at the beginning of the 2008-09 season (after winning the title) which was the absolute apex of Celtics basketball I ever witnessed (and I also remember watching the 1986 Celtics). You just had to be there.
If you are too young to remember that, I don’t know what to tell you. Just like I missed seeing Bill Russell and Red Auerbach’s coaching career. Sometimes you just have to take the older generation’s word for it.
Kevin Garnett was one of a kind in every way.