Kevin Garnett “The Big Ticket”
Kevin Garnett definitely qualifies as one of the best players in the NBA over the last 30 years. There are a couple of things that immediately stand out about his career. The first was the intensity that he brought to every game and every possession in it. The other is that he kind of spawned a generation of high-school to the pros players, many of which were nowhere near as successful as Garnett, who was nicknamed the “Big Ticket”. He is the best player in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves. There might not be a ton of competition for that honour in that hapless franchise, but that doesn’t take away from his impact. They have just one playoff appearance in the 18 seasons since he left.
High School Draftee
Prior to Kevin Garnett there were only three players that had been drafted by NBA teams right out of high school. The most notable of those was Moses Malone, who went on to a Hall of Fame career. The last of those three was Bill Willoughby in 1975, who did not. It took another 20 years til 1995 and a player like Kevin Garnett for teams to get comfortable with a player being physically and emotionally ready for the NBA at that age. Garnett was the consensus top high school player in the country, but it was still a controversial decision. As great as a career as “the Kid” had, part of his legacy is the drafting of greats out of high school like Kobe Bryant, the following year, through LeBron James.
All Time Timberwolves Player
Prior to drafting Garnett Minnesota had never had a season with a winning record. He did not turn the team around right away but by year two he had the Timberwolves in the playoffs. They then made the playoffs for eight straight seasons, peaking with a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2004. He played a few more seasons for Minnesota after that but with a championship far from their grasp the Timberwolves traded him to Boston where he could chase a title with the Celtics. He is at the top of the career leader board for Minnesota in almost every category – games, points, rebounds, blocks and a slew of other categories. Also with Minnesota he won his lone MVP award in the 2003-2004 season.
Despite winning the MVP a few seasons earlier, his fist season in Boston was probably his best. In 2007-2008, flanked by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Garnett won his only NBA title. With those elite teammates he sacrificed some of his personal production in favour of winning. He also won Defensive Player of the Year. That core had success, including another trip to the NBA Finals a couple of years later but they lost.
Seeing the decline of players like Garnett and Pierce, the duo were traded from Boston to Brooklyn with the hope of infusing some high level winning into that franchise. It was a move with an aim to winning now and they didn’t.
Garnett eventually wound his way back to Minnesota so he could retire as a Timberwolve.
Hall of Famer
Kevin Garnett is one of three legendary players inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2020. The class will forever be connected to recently deceased Kobe Bryant, but Garnett is very worthy of the honour (Tim Duncan was the other NBA player in this Hall of Fame class – the ceremony will be 2021). The numbers that stand out are fifteen All-Star game appearances and nine All-NBA teams. One of the most complete players of his era he also made the All-Defense team twelve times. Elite, intense and consistent play were his trademarks.