By: Joe Cardoso
The 90’s were an era of change in the world. Both sports and music found new avenues and ways to express to the masses. In the NBA you had Jordan ruling everyone and everything, as well as Magic and Bird on the back end of Hall of Fame careers.
In 1995 the Houston Rockets defeat the Shaq and Penny Orlando Magic in a sweep. During that offseason, a buzz started about a rail thin kid from Greenville, South Carolina who was the king of hoops, the next big thing. He left South Carolina after an incident in his school, a lot like Allen Iverson, and moved to the city of Chicago. At Farragut Academy, he was a beast and it led to him winning all the post season awards. He was the first player since Moses Malone to declare for the NBA draft right out of high school. He was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves and began to climb the ranks in that franchise becoming a contender, not an NBA joke.
The on-court value of Kevin Garnett, KG, Da Kid, or The Big Ticket, could not be denied. His love for the game was on display night after night. He was a tall, thin power forward who could hit the mid-range jumper and had a decent post game that he worked on for 21 years. His real impact was on defense where his communication skills and his ability to make up for others was profound. He was a terror on the boards for 18 years, and his trash talk was a thing of legend. The league at that time was not the, ‘we’re all friends and we love each other,’ group that it is today. Players get confidence by seeing the ball go into the hoop, so every single time a foul was called if the ball was airborne, KG would swat it to the third row. You will not get the mental edge on him, no sir, not today, not ever. Some would say he wasted years in Minnesota with teams that were good to make the playoffs but not title contenders. His seasons with Stephon Marbury were short lived as the guard was traded to New Jersey. He had some time with Sprewell and Sam Cassel making a western conference final, but no real hope of a ring.
What made me love KG from day one was his joy for the game and leadership. It was written all over his face. The yelling after rebounds wasn’t an act, it was part of his game. The amazing putback dunks and mean mugs that followed were things of glory to a high school student and hooper like me. I also respected his loyalty to the T-Wolves year after year. When he won the MVP in the 2004 season, I cried when they gave him the award because he made it his way and gave all the credit to fans and his teammates. His intense passion for basketball was contagious and so cool. I mean the guy poured his heart and soul into the game. When teammate Malik Sealy died in 2000 you could see how it affected him. It was rare to see an athlete express emotions like that. I will never fault a player for making money. When his 6 year, $126 million dollar contract was used as the reason for the NBA lockout of 1998-99 as if no other issues were on the table.
During the 2007 offseason, the team entertained trade offers for the man who had carried them so far even with all the huge ups and downs. The Celtics trade, in my opinion, was perfect in so many ways.
- The tradition of the franchise matched the passion and loyalty ingrained in him
- The talent was a HUGE upgrade over what he was working with before
- After 12 years with Minnesota, it was time
- Linking up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce was a heaven sent
The championship run was legendary. I will NEVER forget the game in LA down 35-14 after one-quarter; down by 24 the Celtic roared back and crushed Laker dreams.
The new Big Three were amazing to watch. I became an instant Celtics fan and watched every game I could. All the things a KG fan loved came shining through. The difference and improvement in the team defense were like night and day. KG was an old school player who demanded max effort from everyone on the daily, no excuses allowed. In today’s NBA that is dying and not the norm. Check his stats and see how they stack against the legends of the game. His next stop is no doubt the Hall of Fame.
Most people worshiped Jordan, Bird, Magic or Kobe, maybe even LeBron. For me, my all-time favorite basketball player, to quote Styles P from the And 1 commercial, is “The 7’0 Carolina kid obsessed with ball.” People often asked me. “With all the greats, why him? He only has one ring.” It was the intensity, the passion, the team first attitude and the leadership he had. He took the hard long road to his goals but stayed true to himself. Those are all qualities a person should have in life. The game won’t be the same. Players can be sensitive and soft with no fear anymore. Ha ha ha. He will always be The Kid and my Big Ticket. Like he said, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”