Crazy. Insane. Maniacal. Kevin Garnett was called a lot of things during his 21-year NBA career. Though without a doubt, KG was one of the fiercest competitors to ever step on the hardwood. The ultimate player you would love to have on your team, but hate to play against, the Big Ticket was a game-changing power forward with mind-boggling athleticism, a dynamic post-up game and an unrivaled defensive intensity.
Garnett was a quintessential professional in an era when an increasing amount of stars allowed their basketball careers to be swallowed by the draws of endorsements and high profile relationships. The Big Ticket was strictly about business on and off the court, serving as the emotional leader of each team he played on.
Whether it be relentlessly trash-talking an opponent throughout the game or pounding the basketball against his head after missing a free throw, Garnett set the tone and made his presence felt every time he stepped on the court. The stories about Garnett’s wild antics on the court go on forever, but two constants remain in all of them; his exceptional work ethic and his heart of a champion.
To begin his career, KG was tasked with single-handedly turning around the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves franchise. He did so and then some, leading the T-Wolves to eight straight playoff appearances from 1996 to 2004. After a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2004, the same year that he took home NBA MVP, the Wolves struggled for the next three seasons, failing to give Garnett his shot to win an NBA title.
So when the chance came to leave Minnesota, Garnett bolted to Boston to join fellow superstars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the Celtics. His first season was a storybook, as the big three turned the fate of the franchise around leading them to their first NBA championship since the Larry Bird era in the late 80’s. The Big Ticket won the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, anchoring a Boston defense that finished as one of the best statistical units of all time.
For the next five seasons, Garnett continued to man the middle for the Celtics, leading them back to the NBA Finals in the 2009-2010 season and to the Eastern Conference finals in the 2011-2012 campaign. After six years in Boston, Garnett was traded to the Brooklyn Nets where he played two injury plagued seasons before returning to his beloved Timberwolves to close out his career.
During his illustrious career, Garnett garnered countless awards for this play. He was named to 15 All-Star games and nine NBA All-Defensive First Teams while leading the league in rebounding four different times. Not to be forgotten, KG also hung up his shoes as the Timberwolves all-time leading scorer, averaging 17.8 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game for his career.
All the awards Garnett received during his career only further validate how incredible he was as a player. However, more than anything else, he was one of the greatest leaders to ever grace the NBA hardwood. The game of basketball will miss the most competitive man of our generation, but do not think for a second that we have heard the last from the Big Ticket.