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Kevin Garnett Says Goodbye To The League After 21 Seasons

Garnett retires from the NBA after 21 years Flickr


Kevin Garnett Says Goodbye To The League After 21 Seasons

It all began for Kevin Garnett at the Farragut Academy in Chicago, Illinois in the mid ’90s.  He played his Senior season at Farragut after transferring from South Carolina’s Mauldin High.  Garnett led Farragut to a 28-2 record in his one season at the basketball powerhouse.  He would be named the National High School Player of the Year by USA Today while posting gaudy stats of 25 points, 18 rebounds, and nearly 7 assists a contest.  Garnett would go on to amass over 2500 points and 1800 rebounds during his four year high school career.

This would be the first chapter in a long book that was Garnetts basketball story.  Shortly after the end of Garnetts Senior season at Farragut, he would declare himself eligible for that summer’s NBA draft.  Kevin would be the fifth overall selection in the 1995 draft, and was first player selected directly out of high school since 1975.

Garnett started a trend that would bring Hall of Fame caliber players Kobe Bryant and LeBron James into the league directly out of high school.  Eventually the league stopped allowing players to declare for the draft straight out of high school.  The NBA now requires players to be one year removed from their high school graduation in order to declare for the draft.

Garnett found a friend, father figure, and mentor in Flip Saunders shortly after his arrival in Minnesota.  The two would go on to work together for over a decade as player and coach.  Garnett began putting up big numbers in just his second year in the league.  During the ’96-’97 season, KG would put up 17 points and 8 boards a game on nearly 50% shooting as a 20 year old.  This was merely the beginning of a remarkable run in Minnesota.

Despite all of KGs individual success, the team would struggle to experience the trappings of playoff success.  Much of the problem came from the fact that there was never a true sidekick for Garnett to dominate with.  With teammates like Tom Gugliotta and Stephon Marbury, the Wolves would enjoy solid regular season play, but could not get over the hump in the playoffs. KG led the team to eight straight playoff appearances, and for seven of those eight years, it was one round and out for the TWolves.

This would all change in the ’03-’04 season.  The acquisitions of Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell made the Wolves a postseason threat for the first time in Garnetts career.  KG would take the league by storm that season, putting up 24 points, 14 boards, and 5 assists a game.  These insane numbers, coupled with the success of the squad, would garner KGs first and only MVP award.  The Wolves would finally get the postseason monkey off of their collective backs, advancing all the way to the Western Conference Finals that season.  Making it out of the first round was indeed an achievement for Garnett, for Saunders, for the state of Minnesota.  Unfortunate enough were the Wolves, as the final installment of the Kobe and Shaq Lakers were there to meet them in the WCF.  The Lakers would go on to dispatch the Wolves in six games, devastating Garnett and the franchise.

It seemed the Wolves were positioned to contend in the West for years to come following their strong ’03-’04 season.  It didn’t work out exactly that way for KG. Things began to go wrong in the locker room, where KG was typically a pillar of leadership.  Sprewell turned down a 3 year, $21 million dollar deal from the team.  Cassell would later be dealt for Marco Jaric.  After all the promise of the ’03-’04 season, after being so close to a birth in the NBA Finals, it was all destroyed.  The Wolves would never make the playoffs again with Garnett.  It is a postseason drought that is still alive today.

In the off-season between the ’07-’08 campaign, Garnetts fortunes would change.  On July 31, 2007, KG was traded to the Boston Celtics for Al Jefferson, some spare parts, and a conditional first round draft choice in the 2009 draft.  KG fit in immediately in Boston, and was surrounded by talent worthy of his talents.  The team galvanized immediately.  Even though Garnetts individual stats would dip, the team was a force.  KG focused his efforts towards the defensive end, and would earn his one and only Defensive Player of The Year Award.  The Celtics would go on to face the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, and would come out victorious in six games.

The years that would follow for Garnett in a Celtics uniform were beset with injury.  Following the championship year, KG would only appear in 57 games during the ’08-’09 season.  The Celtics would make it back to the Finals, coming out on the losing end in seven games to the Lakers.

The remaining years of Garnetts career saw Father Time take it’s toll.  Garnett would battle various injuries, and his stats would decline.  Following the championship year with the Celtics in ’07-’08, KG would never average more than 16 points or 10 rebounds a game. Prior to the championship year he averaged better than 20 points and 10 rebounds in nine seasons.

The Big Three of Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce would eventually disband.  Allen would leave Boston for Miami, joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.  KG and Pierce would leave Boston together in 2013 as part of a blockbuster trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

Following a few pedestrian years in Brooklyn, KG was traded back to where it all began.  On February 19, 2015, Garnett was traded back to Minnesota in exchange for Thaddeus Young.  Garnett would serve as a mentor and stabilizing force to the youngsters in the Minnesota locker room.  His stats became an after thought, as he would be seen throughout the past season working hands on during practice with Minnesotas new franchise player, Karl Towns.

Garnetts career truly embodied the sports cliche of going full circle.  It began in 1995, as a fresh faced High School entrant into the league.  He was the franchise player in a small market city, displaying fierce loyalty and competitive spirit for over a decade in Minnesota.  After years in the trenches, never getting over the hump, he was sent away from where it began.  He played team ball with two worthy contemporaries in Boston, earning every ounce of the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2008.  As the years went on, KG knew that he was no longer capable of carrying a squad.  Similar to Tim Duncan, and the antithesis of Kobe Bryant, KG took a step back and truly gave back to the game he loves.  He shared his spirit and wisdom with the youngsters in Brooklyn and Minnesota.

On September 23, 2016, the league lost a class act, but his impact and knowledge he shared will live on beyond his retirement proclamation.

For a man who amassed 26,071 points, 14,662 rebounds, 5,445 assists and 2,037 blocks, his impact went so much further than his unbelievable stats.