When Kevin Garnett came into the NBA as the fourth preps-to-pros phenom, he was a gangly, 6-11, 220 pound player with unmistakable skills and a burning passion and insatiable appetite for the game of basketball.
He entered the league when Patrick Ewing was a dominant player, and last night his 15 points against New Orleans moved him past Patrick Ewing for 16th on the all-time scoring list.
There were more than a few signs that he would succeed, but these moments certainly didn’t come to be without the constant learning pains and adversities young players have to go through in order to find themselves as people and players. “The Kid,” as he used to be referred to as, needed time not only to put on weight/add strength, but also to learn what was expected of him at the NBA level, especially at the offensive end.
The raw talent was there from the start.
For example, KG had the ability to knock home turnaround jumpers over either shoulder – with ease. Along with passion, he ran the floor like a gazelle, er, Timberwolf, had an excellent touch, was unselfish on both ends of the floor, averaged 1.6 blocks per game and was such a fluid player overall that at the time, Indiana Pacers President Donnie Walsh said Garnett had “a good chance to be the best player in the league some day.”
Rebounding, blocking shots, passing to the open man, dribbling, hustling on defense, talking smack …
All these things came pretty naturally to Kevin Garnett as a youngster coming up in South Carolina and Chicago and carried over to the NBA more naturally than, say, scoring.
Despite his natural skills, scoring, on the other hand, was something he didn’t have the killer instinct for at a very young age. As a youngster, Garnett was oftentimes told to be more aggressive by his coaches, which helped him to finish his prep career with a rather impressive 2,553 points over a four-year span.
Of course, dominating a high school game and dominating a professional game are two completely different things.
Upon arriving in the NBA, it’s likely his passion for being good at everything on the basketball court combined with a passive nature (not as it relates to speaking, but as it relates to playing) and emphasis on winning caused him some trouble adjusting to the NBA level, before he became a perennial All-NBA player.
(BELOW: A fun “Training Day” tribute to Garnett and his rookie year)
“I was a huge Magic [Johnson] fan coming up,” Garnett explained on Monday evening before the Celtics beat the Bobcats. “The majority of the people around me wanted to score the ball, put the ball in the basket. I always took a liking to trying to do everything, if not trying to be good at everything.”
Which is why for as lethal as a scorer as Kevin Garnett is, putting Spalding in the basket is just one facet out of a variety he’s has been able to take advantage of his unique size, athleticism and coordination to impose his will on many a defense.
But when KG morphed his mentality into that beast-mode status on the offensive end he was a never-ending nightmare for opposing defenses on a nightly basis. Garnett led the TWolves to the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons and nearly reached the NBA Finals with a roster consisting of Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell, Wally Szczerbiak, Trenton Hassell and Fred Hoiberg, to name a few. Boy, were those fun to watch. After the jump is KG’s career high 47 in ’05: