Kevin Garnett stood on the sidelines, screaming in an attempt to rally his teammates to victory. His primal intensity still burns deeply, but not even his best effort to cheer his team to victory could hide a sobering fact from view.
With the All-Star game in the balance, the only way Garnett could help was by screaming from the sidelines, wearing a bag of ice to go along with his warmup suit.
*****In the All-Star game, there are certain players that just stand out. I guess it’s like that in every game, but in the All-Star game it’s more striking. It’s more difficult to stand out when the NBA’s best are all collected together on the same court. So when it happens, you realize you’re witnessing greatness.
Last night, the trio of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard stood out more than anyone else. Even in the world’s greatest pick-up game, their athletic ability was simply on a different plane than anyone else’s. They can put it into the next gear that other mortals on the court just don’t have. Carmelo Anthony played great basketball last night, but he does things that other human beings could possibly imitate. What James, Wade, and Howard do, other people can’t. Not me, not you, and not Carmelo Anthony. They possess a grace, a presence, and an extra gear that nobody else has. Nobody in the world.
There was a point in time when Kevin Garnett inspired the same feelings as James, Wade and Howard now do. When he stood out even against the best and brightest the NBA had to offer. Even in the All-Star game, a collection of most of the world’s best basketball talent, Garnett simply commanded attention. He was a seven feet tall package of skill, mobility, and exuberance the likes of which the game had never seen.
He had grace for days. To see a seven-footer so mobile, so limber, and so smooth, you felt like you were witnessing the ushering of a new generation of NBA players. But you weren’t; nobody else has come along with Garnett’s combination of size, skill, determination and mobility and, maybe, nobody ever will.
His skill set was unbelievable. Seven footers just don’t do what he could. It was impossible. He could float to the perimeter, run the break, and dish dimes. He snatched every rebound in sight, and had as sophisticated a low-post game as anyone in basketball.
Once he had you in the post, you were at his mercy. He’d catch the ball with both feet planted nimbly in the ground, so he could pivot either way. He’d shoulder fake one way, then another, both times with the balls of his feet still connected to the ground. Then his defender would lean one way, one of Garnett’s feet would come off the ground, he’d spin away from the defense, and an unblockable fadeaway jumper would soon by on its way to the rim. Splash. It was that easy. That effortless. That simple.
Only it wasn’t simple. Or easy. If it were, other players would be able to do it. Just like James, Wade and Howard do now, Garnett made the impossible seem so attainable. For a seven footer to be so skilled should have been unlawful. But Garnett, galloping down the court with his long, spry gait, was that talented. The way he moved, they way he played — even the way he was — Kevin Garnett stood out.
There comes a time in every player’s career when the game passes him by. Perhaps it hasn’t yet come to that point with Garnett. He still has some left to contribute to the Celtics’ cause. He’s not the same player he once was, but there’s still left to offer. Maybe the game hasn’t entirely passed him by.
But, at least, the game’s stars have. Garnett once stood out in the All-Star game for what he could do, but last night he was almost invisible. He used to be a leading actor, but yesterday he was nothing more than an extra in a cast co-starring Lebron, D-Wade, and Superman.
After the game’s conclusion, Garnett talked about his need for rejuvenation and rest, the big crowd at Cowboys Stadium, and splitting minutes with David Lee. Imagine that? Kevin Garnett, splitting minutes with David Lee. And, to tell you the truth, Garnett wasn’t even as deserving of a spot on the team as Lee.
It’s sad how quickly and drastically the mighty fall. One day, Garnett was in the winner’s circle for the first time in his career. The next, he was under the knife getting surgery, after being forced to watch from the sidelines as his team failed to defend its title.
Yesterday, he had to once again resort to cheering his All-Star teammates on while they — not he — fought for victory. KG once stood out even among the world’s best for all his talent and skill, but his sudden fall from the league’s forefront has left yesterday’s scene all too real:
KG standing on the sideline. An ice pack wrapped around his knee. Words of encouragement and advice springing from his lips. The fire, the heart, and the desire still there.
But the athletic ability fading.
Fading far too quickly.