I meant to do Kevin Garnett justice with this piece.
To describe everything he’s meant to the Celtics, taking them from irrelevant to champions in less than one year.
To explain what he’s meant to me, a sophomore in college at the time Garnett was traded, a business major who started a blog for a class and never stopped blogging, mostly because writing about the Big Three was so enjoyable; the blog ultimately led to what I hope becomes a long career in sports journalism.
To try teaching what it’s like to hold a microphone next to Garnett after a game, neck craning to gaze up at his unfathomably chiseled face, attempting to maintain a semblance of professionalism while standing next to your hero, marveling at the way his eyes can hold reign over an entire room; in 24 years of living, I have never met another person whose eyes hold so much focus and power and intensity and passion that they can quiet a room by themselves.
To word how Garnett’s consistent effort should inspire anyone, even those who dislike his occasional displays of boyishness. To discuss how his unselfishness — once seen as his greatest weakness when he was surrounded by Wally Szczerbiak and no one better — is nothing less than Garnett’s best attempt to give his team what the game needs.
To praise his knowledge of angles on defense, his perfect hedges and quick recoveries and ability to cover three teammates’ asses at once. To recall the story of a preseason practice in 2007, the Big Three’s first season together, when Paul Pierce supposedly jogged through a sprint and Garnett stood in his face and barked something to the effect of, “We don’t do that here. Not anymore.”
To remember what it was like as a fan to advance from the Gerald Green era to the Big Three era, and how the Big Three teams immediately took Garnett’s identity — the ball whipped around, nobody cared a damn about statistics, the defense left no shot uncontested, and the team might struggle but it would not quit. Pierce has been described in many corners as the team’s leader, and I’m sure he’s one of them. But the Big Three-era Celtics became like water flowing into a plastic bottle, taking the shape of the bottle as the laws of physics dictate, and the bottle looked — and still looks — a lot like Kevin Garnett.
At some point in writing this, I realized I would not do Garnett justice. How can you relate such a large impact — to the game of basketball, to the Boston Celtics, to Celtics fans, and on a significantly smaller scale, to me — in one piece?
I leave you with quotes from Mickael Pietrus, who surely does a better job explaining Garnett’s importance than I do. (Green Street)
“KG to me is not a friend,” said Pietrus. “He’s part of my family, because we’re trying to win a championship together. We’re trying to make a big thing together. At the end of the day, once we retire and we win a championship, he’s going to be a friend. But right now with the Celtics, it’s all about family.”
“That’s something I like from him is that toughness,” added Pietrus. “I respect that. That’s what he tries to transfer to everybody on the team. Don’t take anything for granted. Every day in practice, you’ve got to come to work. For the game, you’ve got to come to work too, because there aren’t any days off. Every day is a challenge. Every day, you’ve got to step up and try to get the best out of the day.”
“Why I picked the Celtics is because of the man right here,” added Pietrus. “He’s played hard for 16 years. I’ve been watching him for the last 10 years since I’ve been in the NBA. The way he gets ready for the game, the way he gets ready to compete every night, that’s where I got that from. Today, for me to play with him, it’s kind of great because we have the same mentality, and that’s what I’m trying to bring to the Celtics.”
“That’s what it takes to win,” he said. “I love his mentality. I love it. That’s my mentality too, so people who don’t understand it — they can’t call themselves winners. They’re losers. If you want to win, you’ve got to play with the man. He’s going to give you some respect, and you’ve got to give him some respect too. So, if you’re not all about winning, KG and the Celtics are not for you. You’ve got to go somewhere else and get numbers, but it won’t make sense. You’re going to get numbers, but at the end of the day you’re going to watch us in the playoffs.”
“You’ve got to learn from the best,” added Pietrus. “I love the man. He plays hard. The thing people don’t see — on some teams, big-time players want to take 25 shots, but it doesn’t make any sense to take 25 shots. What I like about KG, he shares with you. On the plane, you sit down, he’s going to share some story with you. He’s going to share some of his life, and you’re going to share some of your life too with KG. That’s what I like.”
“To be honest with you, the reason I came to the Celtics is because of coach Rivers and KG. I knew they had Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but [Garnett] makes everybody play hard. I was like, that’s going to be a good fit for me to play with the man. I am very happy from when I got here a month ago.”
“When things weren’t going well for him in Minnesota, he kept working the same way he’s working now. And then that trade came, and he’s still the same KG. That’s what I like. Some superstars play different. If your team doesn’t win, he’s still going to bring his best.”
“Hopefully, I’ll be a Celtic for many years to come,” said Pietrus. “I’ve seen the other side of the sea, and the fish is different. I don’t want to go back there.”
Without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics might still be in a rebuilding mode designed to attain banner No. 17. Without Kevin Garnett, I would probably be in a cubicle somewhere today, missing sports, feeling uncomfortable in a suit and tie, and wondering why I never explored sports writing.
I don’t have a full-time job yet. I run around working four or five different gigs to gain experience, and Celtics Town has suffered lately (sorry, all) because I’ve been juggling so many other things. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. But I’m on the right path, or at least a path I truly enjoy, and in a very direct way, I can thank Kevin Garnett for that.