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Kevin Saying Goodbye to KG, is Saying Goodbye to Old School Toughness

Kevin Garnett has retired after 21 seasons in the NBA. After 50,418 minutes, good for 3rd most all-time, Garnett has accrued 26,071 points (17th all-time), 14,662 rebounds (9th), and 2,037 blocks (17th) which will no doubt gain him access to the NBA’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Yet, none of these statistics can calculate the way ‘The Big Ticket’ impacted the game the most. It was through the intangibles that are so often talked about and sought after in scouting reports and draft rooms. Those intangibles were on full display by Garnett: head-butting the stanchion before every game, slapping the floor on defense, chest-pounding after big plays and let’s not forget the trash talk (His opponents certainly won’t).

The culmination of his on-court character shows the toughness, grit and intensity that Garnett played with. I can’t think of a moment to sum up Garnett’s career better than on February 1st, 2011 when Boston was playing in Sacramento against the Kings. It was a Tuesday night, Boston had come into the game winners of seven in a row against a struggling Kings team with just a 12-33 record. It was early in the third quarter, Boston trailed 59-54. Samuel Dalembert pump faked from the right side of the court, drove left past a leaping Shaquille O’ Neal- rose up at the rim only to be met by Garnett. Jumping vertically and extending that long wingspan to get a piece of the ball before it met the rim to deflect the shot. A fairly routine play for most shot-blocking power forwards in the NBA, but after the play Garnett is what defined KG – swinging his arms as if giving a fatal body blow to a punching bag, screaming spit flying out of his mouth, muscles tensed, pounding his chest, rippling through his arms and jersey while even more gobs of spit fall to the floor.

That’s intensity. Nobody in the history of the NBA has ever played with fire and passion like that and nobody ever will. I will never forget the story that Paul Pierce tells in an oral history about Garnett on Bleacher Report back in 2015. “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.” That would never happen in today’s NBA.

Kevin Garnett was the last tough S.O.B. in the NBA that didn’t care who you were or what you had done, if you were in a jersey that was a different color than his – he would do everything, say anything in his power to get inside your head to throw you off your game. In a day where players shake hands and hug after the game. In a day where players work out with players from other teams during the season. The Big Ticket was as tough as they come.

Thank you KG. 

Written by: Jake Mulleavey