The circumstances of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame announcement were unfortunate and anticlimactic. Because concerns about the coronavirus pandemic canceled the NCAA Tournament, basketball’s annual Final Four announcement was replaced by a press release and Zoom interviews.
The announcement was made somber by the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, who is part of this illustrious class and will be inducted posthumously this fall.
Other highlights of this nine-person class are Tim Duncan, Tamika Catchings, and former Celtic Kevin Garnett, all of whom were elected on their first ballot.
For Garnett, it was a given he was going to be inducted. It is a coronation for an amazing career in which he was the face of the Timberwolves for 12 years, and then helped resurrect the Celtics organization.
The Hall of Fame ceremony, scheduled for Aug. 28 in Springfield, will be a star-studded event, especially considering the class and those wanting to pay one final tribute to Bryant.
And it’s the perfect time for a Celtics’ Big Three reunion — and that includes fellow Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
Garnett said he will not call for his induction to be a ’08 Celtics reunion, but everybody is invited.
“That’s not important,” he said Monday. “I wouldn’t dare ask those guys to do that. I’m not a guy to do that. If someone wants to do something on their own, fine. That ’08 team, I have connections with everybody on that team. We will forever be brothers. Nothing more, nothing less.
“I don’t want any games. If it’s real, it’s real, if it’s not, it’s not. People who want to show their appreciation for whatever it is, that’s cool. I would never put that on any of those guys. That team, those are bros for life.
“That includes Ray.”
If you haven’t followed the soap opera that is ’08 teammates Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce over the past seven years, here’s a brief recap: Garnett and Pierce were angry that Allen left the Celtics for the rival Miami Heat in 2012; Pierce was disappointed he didn’t receive a heads-up call, while Garnett, with his vintage surliness, was simply angry that Allen bolted for their most despised opponent, a team that included Celtics nemesis LeBron James.
Pierce’s disdain has thawed over the years and he even posed with a picture with Allen when both were attending a 2017 NBA event in Japan. Garnett hasn’t relented until recently.
Garnett has mentioned Allen more than once over the past few months when talking about his Celtics years. And Kevin Garnett does nothing unintentionally.
He still respects Allen, although they are no longer friends. And there have been rumors that Allen wanted to attend the Pierce jersey retirement ceremony in February 2018 but wasn’t sure whether it would cause a commotion with Garnett and Rajon Rondo, another Allen critic who was also at TD Garden for the event.
Allen was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in September 2018, and neither Pierce nor Garnett attended. Inasmuch as Allen did leave the Celtics for the Heat, where he won a title and hit one of the biggest shots in team history, he was an indispensable member of the ’08 Celtics.
Allen has said his departure was more about feeling a lack of respect from the Celtics than any issue with Garnett, Pierce, or Rondo. The Celtics could have signed Allen to an extension during his final season, but they didn’t. And then Danny Ainge went after Allen contemporary Jason Terry during the opening minutes of free agency.
The Heat, with team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison, courted Allen and promised him a prominent role on a championship team. This was no long after the Heat had the beaten the Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I’ve been very vocal on my distaste for what Ray did, that was real for everybody that was involved,” Garnett said. “That’s real life. We was in real beef with Miami at the time and very similar to if someone was to go from the Lakers to the Celtics and vice versa. No one will speak on the underlyings of it, but that was a real thing. Miami and Boston. That was a real thing.
“Yeah, Ray made a decision; I wouldn’t expect Ray to be at anything of mine. And vice versa. If I see him, I’ll speak. I’ll say hello to his family like always and keep it pushing. He knows that decision altered and made us all feel different.”
Garnett said he’s all for a group gathering, but he wants it to be completely sincere and real.
“But if Paul, a lot of guys really want to break bread just dealing with the current state [of the world]. I don’t know. I just don’t think you turn it on like that. I don’t think you are it on and off like that, I’m not really big on that," Garnett said. "I wish Ray all the best in whatever he’s doing. I wished him [well] when he went [into the Hall of Fame], congratulated him, and kept it moving.
“This ain’t no big saga to me. This ain’t no drama. I know Doc Rivers said he would like for [Allen] to be there. I want to be drama free. He don’t have to be.”
Considering these state of world affairs and Bryant’s passing, which forced everybody to question their own mortality, it’s time for a truce, some hugs, kind words, respectful wishes, some old stories, and then an amicable farewells. And there would be no better place than Springfield and no better time than the induction.