Kevin Garnett is known by many as the greatest power forward of all time not named Tim Duncan. He joined the NBA early, dominating the league on Minnesota without much team success, before finally winning it all with the Celtics. In wake of his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame, here we recognize the career of The Big Ticket himself, Kevin Garnett.
The Makings of The Big Ticket
Garnett was born on May 19, 1976 in Greenville, South Carolina. He was the second of three children, all raised by a single mother who never married his father. In his first three years of high school Garnett attended Mauldin High School in Mauldin, South Carolina and played on the school's basketball team.
However, during the summer before his senior year of high school trouble arose. Following the aftermath of a fight between white and black students, Garnett was one of three students arrested for second-degree lynching despite not even taking part in it. The charge was removed pre-trial, but Garnett decided to leave the school and transfer to Farragut Career Academy in Chicago.
Garnett found new success in Farragut, leading them to a 28–2 record while being named National High School Player of the Year. He was also named Illinois' Mr. Basketball, averaging roughly 25 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks. Thanks to it being allowed at the time, Kevin declared himself eligible for the 1995 NBA draft, forgoing college. He chose not to go due in part to having low test scores, saying he would've attended Maryland if he decided to go to college.
Early Timberwolves Years
Garnett was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and in doing so became the first player to be drafted directly out of high school since 1975. In his rookie season Garnett initially came off the bench, but was moved into the starting lineup soon after a head coaching change occurred.
In the final 42 games of the year Garnett averaged 14 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.26 blocks once he slipped into the starting role. He was not a key player quite yet. Fellow youngsters Isaiah Rider, Christian Laettner, and Tom Gugliotta were the key players, though they didn't help lead the team to actual success.
Before the '97 season the Timberwolves decided to change up their roster. Rider and Lattner were traded away, and they traded for Stephon Marbury during the draft while also signing Dean Garrett. While their departures were questionable, the players they brought in were near perfect replacements. This, and the emergence of Garnett, helped the team to a 40-42 record and the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Minnesota lost key rebounder and defender Garrett in free agency, but they once again were able to rely on an improving Garnett. He averaged 18.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.7 steals per game in 1998, getting a second All-Star selection. The Timberwolves once again improved, finishing 45-37, their first winning record in franchise history. Though they once again lost in the first round, they were able to get their first and second playoff game wins in team history.
The following offseason saw Gugliotta leave to the Suns in free agency, with Minnesota acquiring Joe Smith as his replacement. The team looked set to really compete, but then tragedy struck. Marbury was traded away, though they did bring in Terrell Brandon in return, AND the season was shortened by a lockout. They finished with a 25-25 record, and another first round exit. But Garnett finally became a top player in the league, averaging 20.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.7 steals.
The streak of first round exits would continue for the next four seasons, despite Garnett entering his prime. He averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds during that time while also getting four All-Star and four All-NBA selections (two first, two second).
But things finally began to look up during the '04 season. Garnett finally had veteran help in Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. They both were in their early 30s, but could still do damage. Sprewell gave the team a scoring boost from the wing, along with great consistency. Cassell was 34-years-old, but averaged nearly 20 points and over seven assists while only missing one game. He made the All-Star team along with Garnett, and appeared to almost even be a top ten player in the league that year. Garnett, meanwhile, was the league's MVP, so he certainly wasn't doing too bad himself.
The team won 58 games, a Minnesota record that still stands to this day. They met the rookie Carmelo Anthony led Nuggets in the first round, beating them in five. In the second round, the Timberwolves had to face the Kings, which were led by Peja Stojakovic. The series was much more competitive, but Garnett managed to make it out alive in seven games. But the magical run ended to the Lakers, which boasted Shaq, Kobe, and even Karl Malone.
Cassell and Sprewell aged poorly, but luckily Wally Szczerbiak stepped up to replace Sprewell's scoring. It still wasn't enough, though, and the Wolves failed to make the playoffs after winning only 44 games. The next year was even worse, as their record fell to 33-49 as they lost Cassell and Sprewell. They tried to change stuff up during the season, trading Szczerbiak for Ricky Davis, but it still left the team with only two stars.
At this point Garnett was getting restless. They had an even worse season in '07, with no new help for him and Davis. He was now 30 with 10 All Star appearances, eight All-NBA teams, and eight All-Defensive teams. If he was going to win a championship, it would have to be sooner rather than later. So trade talks began, and soon Garnett found himself with a chance to finally succeed.
Success With The Celtics
Garnett would only have a couple superb years left in the tank, but he made them count in his new home. He finally had great coaching, and not one but two stars to lean on in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. With a new three year, $60 Million deal included, Garnett decided to show the world he still had it. While he was averaging reduced number (19 points, nine rebounds, three assists), he looked better than ever. He lead the team to a 66 win record, taking home his first and only DPOY award in the process.
In the playoffs they faced stiff competition, with no series taking less than six games to decide. They had early trouble against a young Hawks team, taking a full seven games before the Celtics finally advanced. Next up was the Cavaliers, carried by Lebron James, who was playing like the best player in the league. That series also went to seven games, but the Celtics once again made it through.
They faced the Detroit Pistons in the Conference Finals. They were a team led by Chauncey Billups, with a supporting cast of Richard Hamilton and Antonio McDyess. In a back and forth series, the Celtics came up on top in six games. And that set up a Celtics-Lakers series that was one for the ages.
Despite it only being their first year together, the Celtics stars held strong. All three played at a high level, with Allen possibly being the best in the series. On the other side, Kobe almost single handedly carried the team in the series, with Pau Gasol being the only other standout player for the Lakers. So the Celtics took the first two games, before splitting the following two in LA and finishing it off at home. For the first, and last, time in Garnett's career, he was a champion.
The next year they looked even better, though their record was four games worse. In addition to the big three, third year point guard Rajon Rondo had begun to blossom into a perfect distributor with an all around solid game. Center Kendrick Perkins was the Dean Garrett of the Celtics, with great rebounding and defense to support Garnett in the post. But this time they were upset by the Orlando Magic, as Garnett failed to play in the playoffs due to injuries late in the season.
Here's where the Celtics front office differs most from the Timberwolves, because after that disappointing season the Celtics choose to keep the aging core intact. Pierce and Allen were still great on the offensive end, Perkins and Garnett were great on the boards, and Rondo was playmaking at a supreme level. The team struggled with injuries a bit, but won a modest 50 games and relatively easily muscled their way to the finals. But they came up short against the Lakers in seven games. Perhaps if the team was fully healthy they would've won, but it's better to not dwell on that what if.
After another season where they were met by an unstoppable enemy, this time in the Miami Heat, the team experience its first loss. Kendrick Perkins was traded away to the Thunder before a lockout shortened 2012 season. The Celtics also saw the aging of star Ray Allen finally begin, so the team's core was reduced to just Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo. But the team still made it to the conference finals, losing once again to the Heat.
That new "big three" would be intact through the 2013 season, where the Celtics would put up a disappointing 41-40 record and a first round loss to the Knicks. And with that, the Garnett era in Boston came to an end. The Celtics front office, looking to begin rebuilding around Rondo, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger, shipped Garnett away to the Brooklyn Nets.
Late Career Journey
Following that now iconic trade, Garnett found himself on a greatly hyped Brooklyn team. While he hadn't been a true superstar since 09, Garnett truly fell apart once he began his time with the Nets. The 37-year-old could still rebound and defend well, averaging almost seven rebounds along with .8 steals and .7 blocks. But he was a complete liability on offense, averaging only seven points and roughly two assists per game. This new KG would remain the same for the last few years of his career.
With the Nets Garnett did break a few records. He surpassed 14,000 career rebounds, becoming only the tenth player in NBA history to do so. Garnett also joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone as the only players to reach 25,000 points, 14,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists.
But they failed to be real contenders, despite having stars like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce, and, of course, Garnett. The two biggest reasons seemed to be injuries, which plagued the majority of the teams core, and bad managing by the coaches. The Nets were unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs.
One year later Garnett agreed to waive his no-trade clause in order to be traded back to Minnesota midway through the season. He appeared in just five games for the Timberwolves that season, before sitting out the team's final 21 games due to a knee injury. He was not a very big loss, but the team still went 16-66.
Following that year Garnett re-signed with the Timberwolves to a two-year deal, though it would be his final year. Garnett appeared in 38 of the team's first 45 games of the season before missing the entire second half of the season with another knee injury. It was his worst year statistically, but his value to the team was more about the guidance he could give to the young core of Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Karl-Anthony Towns, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, and Ricky Rubio. Garnett retired that same year, as his knees had become too much trouble.
Life After Basketball
Garnett has a clothing brand by the name of OBF, standing for Official Block Family. The name came from what he called his close group of friends from his childhood. He also joined the crew on TNT's Inside the NBA, even hosting his own segment Area 21. Garnett has since stopped working with them for the time being, but he could possibly work with them again.
Garnett has also been a consultant for a few teams, particularly the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks supposedly around 2016 and 2017. He even attempted to buy a small stake in AS Roma, but was barred by the NBA due to the fact that Roma's president James Pallotta also owned a small piece of the Celtics as well. It does not appear Garnett has tried to buy a soccer club since, and his career in the sports world seems to be over for now.