Kevin Garnett is retiring. Behind him, he leaves a legacy as one of the best defensive players ever. His departure also leaves a void as the best trash talker in the NBA. Few in professional sports can match Garnett’s intensity, and that intensity not only showed up in his effort on the court, but in his level of trash talk and in other off-court incidents that would seem mundane for anyone else.
The result is an encyclopedia of legendary Garnett stories. Some have been corroborated, others remain mythical tales. Nothing, however, is too wild to be unbelievable; Garnett was just that unique.
Here is a collection of our favorite, on the record, stories of the NBA’s most intense and likable bully.
$126 million could wait for Janet Jackson’s music:
In 1997, Garnett, then just 21, negotiated a massive six-year, $126 million contract extension that many believe helped cause the ensuing lockout. It was life-changing money. And yet, his agent couldn’t find him to actually finalize the deal because he was demoing a new Janet Jackson album:
Silence loomed a couple beats too long for Eric Fleisher’s comfort. Fleisher had phoned Kevin Garnett in the fall of 1997 to notify him that an agreement on his contract extension had finally been consummated. The Timberwolves were set to hand Garnett, at a time when he would have been midway through college, the most lucrative contract not only in basketball but in all of sports. All Fleisher needed was Garnett to come to his hotel and sign the contract before the deadline. They had just one hour.
Garnett finally responded. He was at the Lake Minnetonka home of his friend, music producer Jimmy Jam. They were busy.
"We’re listening to Janet’s album," Garnett said. Jam was previewing a copy of Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope for Garnett. "Could we do it a little later?" he asked Fleisher.
Via Boys Among Men, a book by Jonathan Abrams
Game 7 really was like going to war for KG
During the 2004 playoffs, Garnett’s Timberwolves struggled to put away a formidable Kings team in the second round. With the series tied at 3, Garnett knew his legacy was on the line. But this on the line?
Game 7, man. This is it. This is all the marbles. I'm sittin in the house, I'm loadin' up the pump. I'm loadin' up the Uzi, I got a couple M-16s, couple nines, got a couple joints with some silencers on 'em, I'm just loadin up clips. Got a couple grenades, couple missile launchers, with, you know, a couple missiles. I'm ready for war.
Nothing was ever just a basketball game for KG. And it worked: Garnett scored 32 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in a signature Game 7 win.
But there were other violent metaphors:
In 2012, KG compared a playoff victory to a bar fight:
KG took Making the Band very seriously
Tyronn Lue: A lot of people do all their howling on the court and they're faking just for attention, but what he does is genuine. So one day we were at his house and we were watching Puff Daddy's show Making the Band, and in one of the scenes, some new guys came in and were trying to sing and were trying to compete against the guys who had been there. And KG just got so hyped, "Motherf----r, you've got to stand up for yours! You've got to fight! Motherf----r, you've got to come together!" He's going crazy, he's sweaty. And he just head butts the wall and put a hole in the wall of his house.
Garnett does not let rookies get away with breaking the rules
Mason Plumlee was a rookie with the Brooklyn Nets while Garnett was on the team. He learned the hard way not to break the rules.
One time, Plumlee made the mistake of ordering his food on the plane before the veterans. Garnett was not going to stand for that. Not only did he take Plumlee’s crab cakes and give them to veteran Reggie Evans, but Garnett made Plumlee serve the rest of the veterans their food.
Another time, Nets rookies forgot to bring the boombox for a flight. Garnett sent all of the rookies off the plane to run through plays on the tarmac.
This year we had a bunch of young guys and they forgot the boombox for the flight to one of our preseason games so KG kicked all the young guys off — I hadn’t passed my rookie date yet … so I was included with the guys. He had us get off the plane and run through our plays on the tarmac while we waited for the flight staff to get the plane ready.
Garnett won’t let non-players eat at all
Paul Pierce tells the story:
"I remember one day after a game — we usually have food laid out for the players after the game. And the game is over, the players have burned so many calories, we’re hungry. And so, it’s time to eat once the game is over. We shower then we have like a buffet.
"So, I remember we jumped out of the shower. Guys got dressed, and it was time to eat. And there were like some people who weren’t on the team in there — like, some doctors who we hardly ever see. We see them making a plate with the players’ food, and I just remember going over there. Kevin Garnett was over there, and he kinda knocked the plate out of his hand and said, ‘This is the players’ food!'"
Garnett will not welcome you to the NBA. No matter how much you liked him.
Joakim Noah grew up idolizing Garnett. He told KG that when Noah arrived in the NBA. He probably regrets that, according to Paul Pierce.
"One time, he asked [Joakim] Noah if he could rub through his hair, like a female or something. ... And I know that kind of made [Noah] hot. And this was when Noah was a rookie, too. I remember Noah looked up to KG. He was like, 'Man, KG, I had your poster on my wall, I looked up to you, man.' And then [Garnett] just said something like that, and was like 'F--- you, Noah.' I was like, 'Whoa.' This kid fresh out of college, looks up to KG, just said he had his poster on the wall, and he tells him that! It crushed him. It crushed Noah."
KG got his revenge if you didn’t let him practice:
In 2010, Doc Rivers wanted Garnett to sit out a practice to preserve his body. KG did not approve.
Garnett, forbidden to take the floor by his own coach, had concocted his revenge: He would track the movements of power forward Leon Powe, the player who had replaced him in the lineup. As Powe pivoted, so did Garnett. As Powe leaped to grab a defensive rebound, Garnett launched himself to corral an imaginary ball. As Powe snapped an outlet pass, Garnett mimicked the motion, then sprinted up his slim sliver of sideline real estate as Powe filled the lane on the break. The players were mirror images: one on the court with a full complement of teammates, the other out of bounds, alone. Two men engaged in a bizarre basketball tango.
"KG," Rivers barked, "if you keep doing this, I'm canceling practice for the whole team. That will hurt us."
Don’t arm-wrestle KG
Just ask Glen Davis:
Somehow in 2010 we were going around and everyone was having arm wrestling contests and Glen Big Baby Davis was crushing everybody … and one by one whoever took on Big Baby Davis, they lost. Until we got on the plane, 35,000 feet up in the air. Big Baby, KG, sit down and we’re all thinking KG’s done, there’s no way. And on the go, no one moves. And Big Baby’s trying his hardest and Kevin says ‘I’m not moving!' And there’s a little bit of profanity in there ...
About a minute and 30 goes by. Big Baby’s shoulder starts to fatigue out, and Garnett starts going, going, and slams Big Baby down on the table for the win. He gets up, and with a lot of profanity, "I’M THE ALPHA MALE IN THIS THING. I’M THE ALPHA DOG IN HERE. DON’T YOU GUYS EVER FORGET IT NOW."
Kevin Garnett has a unique way of waking up
KG in 2005: "Coffee and Gatorade. It's a hell of a mix. If you're ever tired in the morning, just try that mix, and tell me what you think."— InsideHoops.com NBA (@InsideHoops) September 23, 2016
That explains a lot.
Kevin Garnett did some weird stuff while on the basketball court.
Like pretend to be a dog and bark at an opponent.
Or blowing in an opponent’s face.
KG once blew in David West’s ear to draw a technical foul. pic.twitter.com/JZUxn2eGqp— devin kharpertian (@uuords) September 23, 2016
Or pretending to bite an opponent.
Or doing knuckle pushups in the middle of a game.
Or getting down on all fours:
Or shouting "I’M GOOD! I’M GOOD!" during an entire defensive possession. (Note the time and score).
KG also said some weird things:
On maintaining chemistry (via our Paul Flannery):
"You can't speed chemistry up. The more you practice, the more you get familiar with each other. There's no hit the fast forward button here. You got Comcast. Some shows you can't fast forward through, you got to let it go through and watch the silly-ass commercials and be pissed, right? This is what this is. Did I just take a shot at Comcast? Fuck it, I did. So what. I'm a Direct-TV guy anyway. Anyway look, this is what this. I'm not helping myself am I? Fuck it, anyway that's what's this is. We totally messed that up, right? But this is one them things where it just takes its course and you can't speed anything up. Next question. Please."
On cooking (also via Flannery):
"Timing is everything, and chemistry isn't something that you just don't throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, and throw something on top of that, and then fry it up, put it in a tortilla, put it in the microwave, heat it up and give it to you, and expect it to taste good. For those who can cook, y'all know what I'm talking about. If y'all don't know what I'm talking about and can't cook, then this doesn't concern you."
On getting a young team like the current Timberwolves to fulfill its full potential:
KG today likened young team to "putting a bunch of puppies in a box & shaking it up & watching the puppies go at it a little bit. It's fun"— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) November 12, 2015
On the feeling of succeeding on the court: (H/T: Slate)
On Caesar salad ... or something: (H/T: Celtics Hub):
"If I was a Caesar salad, the croutons would be my friends, the lettuce would be my family and the dressing itself would be my mom," Garnett said. "Because you can have the lettuce and the croutons, and it can be called a Caesar, but until you have the dressing and it actually tastes like a Caesar. . . ."
"Now Cobb salad," Garnett continued, "that’s a different story. If I was a Cobb salad, my wife is the lettuce…no, sorry, my daughter is the lettuce. My wife is the bacon strips. My friend Steve is the avocado. Cassell and Ty Lue are each a grape tomato. Tom Gugliotta is the chives and also the hardboiled egg. All my childhood pets are the cheese. And my mom is the Caesar dressing. I ask for Caesar dressing on my Cobb salads."
And while this didn’t yield any strange analogies, we can’t forget this emotional interview with John Thompson in 2005:
Kevin Garnett was incredibly weird and incredibly rude. And we’re going to miss him dearly in the NBA.