Another NBA legend will soon be calling it quits. Kevin Garnett, the versatile forward who ushered in the preps-to-pros era over 20 years ago before embarking on a storied career, will soon announce his retirement from the NBA, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and others.
Garnett had one more year in his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which allowed him to take his time making a decision. Most believed that he would stay on for one more season mentoring Minnesota's young players. Instead, he will reach a buyout with the organization, perhaps under acrimonious terms, and will soon call it a career after 21 years in the league.
Garnett will be remembered in basketball circles as one of the greatest and most influential players of his generation. As a teenager, he made the leap from Farragut Career Academy to the NBA in 1995, helping to jumpstart an era when elite high school players regularly skipped college. Garnett’s success after being drafted by the Timberwolves helped push that trend forward until the NBA implemented age restrictions.
On the court, Garnett was nothing short of amazing. In his prime, he coupled the length and size of a prototypical big man with an incredible combination of ball handling, court vision, and passing ability. Other stars might’ve been more prolific scorers, but few (if any) players in history have been the two-way force that KG was at his best.
Over 21 seasons with the Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, and Brooklyn Nets, Garnett made 15 All-Star Games, 12 All-Defense teams, and 12 All-NBA teams. While he slowed down in his final years, his place as one of the league’s all-time greats was solidified in 2008, when he led the Celtics to a tittle.
During his career, KG averaged 17.8 points, 10 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He put up 20-10 numbers in every season from 1998-99 through 2006-07.
While Garnett's entire time in the league is noteworthy, there are two seasons that stand out. The first is the 2003-04 season, when he earned league MVP honors by delivering one of the great single-season performances ever. Right in his prime at age 27, Garnett averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, five assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game. He was an absolute force on both sides of the court in leading Minnesota to a 58-24 record. KG’s 2003-04 is often referred to as his masterpiece.
Unfortunately, Garnett's brilliance wasn't enough to lead the Timberwolves to a championship. In 2003-04 they lost 4-2 to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The next year, despite KG’s continued greatness, Minnesota didn’t even make the playoffs.
Those troubles eventually gave way to the other special season in Garnett’s career: 2007-08. A blockbuster trade to the Celtics partnered Garnett with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston, giving him the right supporting cast to compete for a championship without shouldering the vast majority of the load. The result? A 66-16 regular season record, a Defensive Player of the Year award and, most importantly, a title, the one thing missing from his resume.
Garnett was incredible on the floor, but his personality helped add to his mythos. Known as a fierce, intense competitor, KG’s trash talk is the stuff of legend. There are full articles devoted to the craziest things KG has ever said on the court. Joakim Noah openly hates him because when he first introduced himself to Garnett, who was one of his idols, the veteran responded, “F— you, Noah.” Stories like that one are common.
Even as he got older, that edge never went away:
While his intense behavior might have earned him some detractors, he was beloved by teammates thank to his leadership and commitment to winning.
Garnett was undeniably one of the greatest basketball players of his generation. He was ahead of his time and helped introduce a new breed of big men who excel thanks to their ability to play inside and out. That's not rare now, but when Garnett was first doing it over a decade ago, it was a revelation. He combined that versatility with unrivaled competitiveness to have a profound and lasting impact in the game.
The league will miss his talent and his unique personality. In his 21-year career, Garnett earned a special place in hoops history.