Kevin Garnett is on the fence on coming back for an NBA-record 22nd season. In typical Garnett fashion, he is in hiding making a decision without a lot of media intervention. Garnett is the last of his 1995 draft class, as there is no one left in the league from the two following drafts either after Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan have retired. Garnett has always defied the odds when it comes to his longevity. He often times held the longest active record for consecutive games played and scoring more than 10 points in a game. KG always was the player who was always reliable in terms of his health and consistency. So to hear that Garnett wants to play another season but doesn’t know if he can is scary. Is KG really on the verge of ending his playing career?
There will likely be a ton of stories that come out about what KG’s impact has been on the league. There is no question he is one of the best all-around players the game has ever seen. As a Timberwolves fan, he is the pride and joy of this franchise. He is all we have to hang our pride on. For many of us, including myself, he is the reason I am a fan. I learned basketball from watching Kevin Garnett play. He is a reason why I am as passionate about a team with the worst win-percentage in the entire NBA.
All of that said, I wanted to reflect and talk about what Kevin Garnett has meant to me. I wanted to talk about the memories I have had as a lifelong Timberwolves fan in hopes of capturing the significance KG’s career has had on Timberwolves fandom. My hope is that it can capture some of the emotions that go with the game of basketball since that is probably what KG would want.
My earliest memory of being a Timberwolves fan begins in the 5th grade. I had always loved the game of basketball as a kid and knew only of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajowan, and Patrick Ewing. My knowledge of the NBA came mainly from family members talking about it and collecting basketball cards. But on the way home from basketball practice with my coach, he turned on the Timberwolves game on the radio. I was fascinated. There was some guy named Rasho Nesterovic and Kevin Garnett. There was also a veteran named Sam Mitchell on the team. I started watching the games at home and can always remember Trent Tucker’s voice saying ‘Young Fella’ anytime KG did something amazing. That season would be the year Sam Mitchell would get hurt and Wally Szczerbiak would emerge as the future starter.
My first worries as a basketball fan were if the Timberwolves could make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The Timberwolves never really got home court advantage and were never really the favorites to win any series. So as a young pup fan, I got excited for the Wolves to just not get swept. I remember the repeat analysis by ESPN during the playoffs every year that we had never made it out of the playoffs in franchise history. It got old.
The reason for digression is to lead to this. There were two moments in which I cried for basketball. The two times were when the Wolves lost to the Lakers in the 2004 Western Conference Finals and again when KG shouted ‘Anything is Possible’ and called out ‘Sota. There was a near-cry moment when KG broke down in tears in an interview about his desire to win. The reason I remember these moments so vividly is because I am not an entirely emotional person. Garnett made basketball personal for me. I developed a tremendous passion for the game because KG’s passion for the game was so contagious. This is something that I believe many Minnesota fans can relate to.
As I progressed as a young-teen basketball player, I started copying KG in my own game. While I wasn’t a post-player, I did start wearing a white wristband that I wrote ‘SE #13’ to be like Garnett. When I was playing at the playground and I did something that I felt was amazing, I would take my armband and throw it into the imaginary crowd like Garnett did after his series-clinching performance against the Sacramento Kings. I started to pretend to talk to myself in games in order to intimidate the other players and make them believe I was crazy. Maybe I actually was crazy, who knows, but KG did this all the time and it was great. I started to love defense because Garnett was so versatile on that end of the floor. My loyalty for the state of Minnesota even grew because that was one of KG’s most undeniable traits, his loyalty.
My basketball career began to fizzle around the same time that the Timberwolves did after the 2003-2004 season. Latrell Sprewell needed millions of dollars to feed his kids and Kevin McHale would fire Flip Saunders. This left the overly loyal Garnett to tough it through with a bad Timberwolves team that tried to use Mark Blount and Ricky Davis as his supporting cast. I switched high schools and started focusing in more on academics than basketball. I would go to college and KG would go to Boston in the same summer of 2007.
The KG memories I have are all over the place. When I try to remember the ones that stick out the most, they are on a broad spectrum of emotions. There is the anger I felt when Anthony Peeler elbowed KG in the playoffs. There is the funny moments when KG made the ‘honey nut cheerios reference’ to Carmelo Anthony or when he bit Joakim Noah. There is the sadness that was felt when Malik Sealy and Flip Saunders passed away. There was also the beauty in when KG went to comfort Kevin McHale after the passing of his daughter and them putting the past behind them. KG made us feel all sorts of things throughout his career and there isn’t another player that I can say the same about.
Fast-forward and eventually Garnett would come back to Minnesota. A dream of many Timberwolves fans everywhere. Flip Saunders got the old band back together. I remember not being able to study for a final in a grad school course because I was repeatedly watching a video of KG highlights with the P-Diddy song “I’m Coming Home” playing in the background. I never imagined Garnett being in a Timberwolves uniform again, and quite honestly, it is still awkward seeing him in the short-sleeved, new-generation jerseys. Like many loyal Timberwolves fans that KG left behind, I was re-energized by the franchise. I was motivated to finally start this blog from the excitement I had built up. The momentum continued and through a lot of ups and downs, the Wolves are in the best places that they have been in over a decade.
Now, we are witnessing Tom Thibodeau making his mark on the roster. He has signed two big men on a team that is already filled with power forwards and centers. This leads me to feel like, even if Garnett was to return, we may not see much of him. Part of me does not want to see Garnett in that type of environment. Another part of me would hate it even more if Garnett played on another team for his final season. What is missing though is the closure. I know Garnett would not want the roadshow that was Kobe’s final season. I also know Garnett would not want to go out missing the last several games. We all know Garnett would want to suit up and play his final game.
I have played out how KG’s final game would go in my head. I would imagine that there would be a ton of anticipation for the final game. KG would start. And in the fourth quarter he would play his final minutes. The Target Center (please NBA schedule the final Wolves game as a home game) would then give KG a final standing ovation that KG would put his hand up and his head down as he tries to hide his tears. There would be several hugs and a delay in gameplay. KG would then choose to not speak with the media after the game and be happy to take the fine. That would be it.
The game without Garnett will take some getting used to. I will officially feel old. And it will be an entirely new era of the game I love. If this is truly it, thank you KG for all the memories. You will leave an incredible legacy and have impacted more people than you can imagine.