Kevin Garnett exorcises his championship demons

Kevin Garnett won his first NBA championship with the Celtics.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Kevin Garnett won his first NBA championship with the Celtics.

With 4:01 left and all but the trophy presentation awaiting, Kevin Garnett embraced Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers on the Boston sideline, but the adrenaline was still flowing, so Garnett knocked his coach upside the head for good measure.

Maybe Garnett mistook Rivers for the Bully. The Bully was the personification of Garnett's titleless career until he won his first NBA championship last night in his first year in a Boston uniform. Rivers is still standing, but the Bully is down for the count. Never again can they say, "Yeah, but he's never won title" about Kevin Garnett.

"I knocked that Bully's [butt] out. That was what it felt like," said Garnett.


He certainly knocked out the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Garnett finished with a team-high-tying 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

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After comparing his play to refuse in Game 5, Garnett, just one win away from an NBA championship, refused to be denied powering the Celtics to a 131-92 drubbing of the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the 17th title in franchise history.

"Other than my kid being born this has got to be the happiest day of my life right now," he said. "I plan on sleeping for a week and months. Personal friends, you looking for me, my number is about to change."

This was why Garnett agreed to leave the Land of 10,000 Lakes and 10,000 different teammates to come to Boston - to play in a game and to play a game the way he did last night. For one game when it mattered most, Garnett channeled all of his ferocious energy and all of his prodigious talent and finally delivered on the promise he showed the moment he stepped on an NBA court in 1995 straight out of Farragut Academy.

Celtics legend Bill Russell wouldn't have to give KG one of his championship rings, as he had promised. Garnett had earned his own.


"He deserves it. I'm so happy for KG," said teammate James Posey, who embraced Garnett in the locker room and told him the same thing. "Even in Minnesota, when things weren't going right, he didn't cry like most superstars and say he wanted out. He stuck there and you knew what you'd get out of him every night and he gave it his all."

Garnett, who was 10 of 18 from the field, has scored more points, grabbed more rebounds and passed out more assists, but he's never played better offensive basketball in a big game than he did in the first half. He had 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first period to set the tone and he had 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting at the half.

He hit face-up jumpers, baseline jumpers, turnaround jumpers and even added a nifty shoulder-shimmy, Hakeem Olajuwon Dream Shake during the decisive 15-2 run Boston used to close out the half and put the game out of reach.

You knew it was Garnett's night when he took a slip pass from Pierce, got hammered by Lamar Odom as he hung in the air and then somehow managed to one-hand the ball off the backboard for a 3-point play that gave Boston a 56-35 lead with 47.3 seconds left in the first half.

When Garnett fed Kendrick Perkins for a reverse layup on Boston's final possession of the half, the Celtics went to the locker room with a 58-35 lead and one hand already wrapped around the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy.


After tying up Paul Gasol with 5:09 left in the third quarter, KG raised his right fist and then beat his chest. He could smell the title.

As he was on the sideline embracing Pierce and Ray Allen, the three shared a moment - just as they had at a press conference after Garnett was traded to Boston from Minnesota, altering the fortunes of the franchise.

"We said, `This is the reason we came here.' From that moment on the podium, to talking in the back, to the trip to Rome. This was the reason."

Garnett had one simple request: Don't call him, Pierce, and Allen the Big Three.

"No, we're Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett."

With the Bully gone, that's finally good enough.