This weekend, a 15-time All-Star and 2008 NBA Champion will punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Let’s look back on the influential 21-year, Hall of Fame career of Kevin Garnett.
The Hall of Fame Career of Kevin Garnett
The Early Years
Garnett was the fifth overall selection in the 1995 NBA draft. With this being the fourth top-5 pick in the Timberwolves’ short history, there was a debate at the time on whether or not Minnesota should use the pick on a skinny 19-year-old straight from high school. Kevin McHale and company decided to make Garnett the cornerstone of their franchise. The young big man did not disappoint, making the 95-96 All-Rookie second team and receiving votes for Rookie of the Year. Garnett would go on to make the Western Conference All-Star team in each of his remaining seasons in his first stint in Minnesota. The one exception being the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Garnett also led Minnesota to its first playoff wins in franchise history during a first-round series loss to the Seattle Supersonics.
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Becoming the Big Ticket
Despite his success, Garnett was unable to push the Timberwolves past the first round of the playoffs in his early 20’s. At one time dubbed ‘the next Karl Malone’ critics began to question whether Garnett would be able to reach his full potential. This would change in the 2003-04 season as he would elevate his play to the next level and lead Minnesota to the Conference Finals for the first time in team history. Garnett led the league in scoring and rebounding that season on his way to being named NBA MVP. He would go on to lead the league in rebounds the next three seasons as well. Poor front office decisions caused the Timberwolves to fall from the conference Finals to out of the playoffs. Continued letdowns led to Minnesota fearing that Garnett would not re-sign once his contract was up. They began looking for a trade partner.
The Big Three
When the trade rumors started swirling, Garnett initially dismissed Boston as a landing spot. With only a year left on his contract, he could easily dissuade any interested teams by declining an extension. Once the Celtics traded for Ray Allen, Garnett had a change of heart and agreed to head to Boston. He believed that teaming up with Allen and Paul Pierce would make the Celtics title contenders. He was right. The 2007-08 season saw a reasonable dip in Garnett’s stat line. His nine-year streak of averaging a double-double was snapped, but he was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year and was a vital piece in the Celtics playoff run.
Cementing His Legacy
Garnett stuffed the stat sheets in the postseason, upping his point and rebound production as the Celtics made their way to an NBA Finals showdown with their historic rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. Garnett owned the glass in the Finals and the big three’s combined 59 points per game led them to a 4-2 series win. After thirteen seasons, the big man finally cemented his legacy as an NBA champion. The Celtics would square off with the Lakers once again in the 2009-10 Finals, falling short in a seven-game slugfest. Garnett was a key component to this run as well. He finished the series second on the team in points, rebounds, and assists. Much like in Minnesota, Garnett would reach the playoffs in each of his remaining three seasons in Boston, contributing to a playoff run with the Brooklyn Nets as well.
A Hall of Fame Career
When Garnett finally called it quits in 2016, he did so as a 15-time All-Star. He made his final appearance as a Celtic in 2013 at the age of thirty-six. The four-time rebounding champ made the playoffs in fourteen of his twenty-one seasons. He was named to the All-NBA team nine times and made the All-Defensive team an astounding twelve times. The former MVP is one of two players in NBA history with 5,000 assists at a height of 6’11. With his athletic prowess, ball-handling ability, and lethal mid-range jumper, Garnett helped to change the way the game is played. With others like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, Garnett ushered in a new era. One where big men can handle the ball and hit threes if left open. Not bad for a skinny kid straight out of high school.