Trevor Hass: The pounding of the chest, the seemingly limitless sweat, and the “anything is possible!” are of course impossible to forget, but there’s one specific on-court moment that still stands out as a defining one 14 years later.
In Game 6 of the 2008 Finals, with the Celtics up 18 late in the first half, Garnett’s one-handed heave while falling down was one of the more impressive shots of all-time from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint. The strength, precision and pure will it took to get that ball in the hoop epitomized what makes him so unique. There was always that bit of uncertainty looming, with Kobe Bryant on the other side, but that bucket was when you realized it was really happening: the Celtics were about to win a championship.
Jeremy Stevens: The off-glass and-1 against the Lakers in 2008 was when I knew the Celtics were winning the championship. Not much of a bold prediction by that point, but it’s dangerous thinking to prematurely celebrate in a series where the Lakers had already blown a 20+ point lead of their own. Still, I’d never been so confident that Garnett would simply not let his team lose.
Drew Doxy: I wasn’t really around for 2008, so I’d have to say my favorite individual moment was the “bar fight” comeback game against Orlando in the 2011-12 season. After going out sad in 2010-11 and a slow start to the following lockout-shortened season, it was easy to be down on Boston’s chances. Injuries didn’t help, but with Kevin Garnett on your team, “anything is possible.”
Coming back from a huge deficit against (at the time) one of the best teams in the league was a big accomplishment in what was quickly turning into a season of optimism before it eventually turned out to be the last ride for the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen trio.
KG’s postgame conversation with TNT’s Craig Sager was just oozing charisma, and it renewed in me more hope and optimism than I had felt in a long while. The C’s paid that optimism off with an iconic playoff run that came just short against the Miami Heat, leaving them one win away from the NBA Finals. While the promise of a championship went unfulfilled, the journey is one I wouldn’t have traded for anything as a fan. Ten years later after that season inspired me to start covering the team, I now write for CelticsBlog. Passion for the game came from watching Kevin Garnett bring nothing but passion to the floor, so for that, I am grateful. Also, “go to bed Boo Boo” lives rent free in my head.
Mike Dynon: Kevin Garnett had played 12 seasons in Minnesota before his trade to the Celtics, so his first game against the Timberwolves was sure to be emotional for him. My favorite Kevin Garnett moment was the final sequence of that game.
The Wolves came to Boston in January 2008 with a dismal 7-34 record, while the Celtics were at the top of the league at 33-7. Those numbers reflected KG’s impact both in leaving Minny and arriving in Boston. However, despite the difference in their records, the Wolves – and the five former Celtics on their roster – were determined to spoil the Garden party.
Minnesota led by one point after three quarters, but the Celtics were up one for the final possession of the game. On the inbounds pass with 10 seconds left, the Celtics double-teamed the ball and forced a pass outside to Sebastian Telfair, one of the former Celts who’d been dealt for Garnett.
The point guard attempted to dribble past KG to get free for the game-winner. He never got the chance. KG poked the ball away and dove on it as the buzzer sounded. Game over, Celtics win.
But that wasn’t all. KG pumped his fist, pounded his chest, and popped his jersey to highlight the team name on the front. He was telling the frenzied crowd that he was one of us now. Kevin Garnett was a Celtic.
Michael Pearce: Of course the basketball moments are legendary, but one of my favorite KG clips has nothing to do with basketball. KG leaving the bench with 10 seconds left in the game to specifically seek out Kevin McHale after McHale’s daughter passed is one of my favorite KG moments.
McHale embraces Doc Rivers right before, and seems composed. But, when KG comes over and the two long-time friends hug, McHale is seen crying as KG speaks to him. KG always wore his heart on his sleeve, which is what I admired about him the most. His ability to express himself and be himself is unmatched. Seeing him comfort a long-time friend and be a literal shoulder to cry on made me respect him that much more. It showed the best part about sports: the human connection.
Bobby Manning: I love all the mentions of Kevin Garnett’s Finals and-one on this thread. That’s no mistake. There’s no other shot quite like it from a player of his size and the expectations of what came with it at that moment in NBA history. Garnett began to defy so many of them.
The smooth jumper that seemingly shot out of his hands at basket level and could essentially stretch out to the three-point line, only stopping there like it was a wall he couldn’t pass. The sharp passing out of double teams. Even moving to the five later in his career in Boston.
I love so much about Garnett and what seems to have us constantly reaching back for memories isn’t just that he provided the only Celtics championship since 1986; it’s the near certainty that there’ll never be another player like him. He’s one-of-one. From his bald head to the splints on his fingers to his shoes that he looked ready to fly out of at all times.
Sports come complete with clones. History repeating itself. Wait long enough and some kind of fortune will fall on your team for one season. Getting to see one of the most culturally-resonating basketball players ever form his legacy in your backyard is special.
All the swearing, the length of his arms practically reaching up to the rafters, the trash talk and push ups. The speeches. The stories. Everyone has one and they don’t need to be urged to tell it. That commercial where everyone in Boston’s head jolts toward the TV upon the announcement he joined the team? That’s how it felt around Massachusetts during those years. He turned the nation’s attention toward Boston.
He affirmed everything. In a game that rewards hustling, Garnett seemed interested in trying to see if he could break it. It’s confounding how he kept it on 1,000 all the time. One thing we learned when he got hurt, and when teams that followed 2008 came so close to greatness, only to fall short due to a few bounces, is that 1,000 is what it takes. Sometimes 1,000 isn’t even enough. It sometimes takes a #5.
Talent covers the league now. Some bigs exceed the skills and tools Garnett brought to the table. I don’t see them saving losing balls bouncing toward half court, looking crazy, talking to themselves and never stopping that chatter. Championship teams have their flashy sides, their table setters, their ancillary contributors, but the rock might be the most important factor in rounding them out. There’ll never again be one as solid as Kevin Garnett.