As much as Kevin Garnett said he wanted to fade into his fiercely private life, he couldn’t. He had too much to tell, too much to give, too much knowledge and wisdom to offer.
So here he is, five years after retirement, months before his number will be retired at TD Garden, telling his story.
“Kevin Garnett: Anything is Possible” premiered this past week on Showtime and it describes Garnett’s decision to enter the NBA Draft directly out of high school in 1995. Garnett was the first player to go straight from preps to pros since Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, and Bill Willoughby in 1975.
Garnett said he had been clamoring to share his experiences, offer another side of one of the league’s most intense and sometimes controversial players.
“This felt like therapy,” he said. “This felt like going back on speaking on things, to activate or inspire others. That’s how I looked at this project. I probably wouldn’t have done this probably five or seven years ago just because of where I was in life and me being comfortable with everything. I think the world could use a little bit of inspiration. I hope they find confidence and some solutions out of my story. I feel a lot more confident in telling my story.”
Garnett, 45, was a 15-time All-Star and the nucleus of the Celtics’ 2007-08 championship team. He remained private during his career, never allowing the outside world into his reality. He wanted to change that after years of reflection.
“When I started going through this, pulling the layers back, I forget about the confidence you’ve got to have to make a decision [to go to the NBA],” he said. “I would see another side of me emerge or progress.”
Why did Garnett decide to become a storyteller? Why didn’t he fade away like he had planned for years? The opportunity to control his narrative was too good to pass up.
“Showtime wasn’t in the documentary business,” he said. “Showtime wasn’t in the basketball business. There wasn’t a lot of these different opportunities out here. I had a vision for myself and I wanted to fade into black and focus on things that I had embarking inside of me. I always wanted to be in production.
“I always wanted to be in content. I want to control the narrative. I always wanted to be in sports. I wanted to be in ownership. When some of these things didn’t come to you, you’ve got to pivot. I’m a man of hunger. I’m a man of vision. I have a work ethic and you just don’t turn that off. I grew this appetitive for storytelling in a certain way. I tried the mentorship with the NBA and it didn’t align like I wanted it to.
“I did want to fade to black and not do anything, but … it’s not really an option when I feel like I have so much to give. When one passion falls off I feel like you pick another one up.”
Garnett was inducted into the Hall of Fame in May and was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in October. Those honors are not lost on him. He is gracious and overwhelmed.
“It knocked me out of my chair,” he said. “Nothing is promised in this world and there’s a lot of dope people were left off that list, a lot of dope people that actually shaped the history of basketball. You don’t know how the voting is going to go. To be part of that, I was astonished. I’m very humbled. I’m very gracious to be part or considered. Lord knows I put the work in. Lord knows I’ve been two feet in this thing since I said I wanted to play basketball. I’m very gracious to the game of basketball and the NBA.”
However, Garnett did not say these awards were not deserved. Garnett worked feverishly on his game during his career, becoming more than just an athletic prodigy. He turned himself into one of the best defensive players in league history.
“You have to understand, I put a lot of work and time into this,” he said. “I just didn’t say I want to do this and suddenly things started happening. This has been a culmination of hard work, dedication, commitment, discipline, being a real true craftsman. Some people say that [expletive] but don’t really be about it. I’m true to what I’m talking about. I never cut any corners.
“I did it the right way. I expected it to be a certain way. I can’t say I expected to be in the Hall of Fame or part of an [all-time] list. When you put the work in, you expect good things to come out of that work. To see what the things I’ve been able to create with my life that I can share with my kids, that’s the cool part about this.”
LEADER ON AND OFF COURT
words of wisdom
One of the bigger developments for the Celtics this season is the leadership and production of Al Horford, who returned to Boston after a two-year absence as compensation in the Kemba Walker trade. At 35, Horford starts and serves as a mentor for the younger players on the roster, especially fellow big man Robert Williams, who affectionately calls Horford “OG.”
Horford’s impact on the team has been unquestioned as he has relied on his experience and patience.
“I talked about kind of learning how to win again, and with this group understanding the things we needed to do and just keep in perspective what the guys have to understand, we all have to be together doing this,” Horford said after the Celtics got off to a 2-5 start. “It’s not going to be one person. We all have to buy into this together and we all have to be engaged. I felt like it was very positive. We all want to be better. Want to play better, be in a better position.”
Horford has been a quiet leader during his career but has become more vocal in his later years, especially last season in Oklahoma City.
“I try to come in here, work hard, and lead by example,” he said. “Treat everybody the right way, and with that any time I need to say something, I feel there’s that rapport and there’s that mutual respect. I respect them and just because I’m older doesn’t mean I have all the answers. Sometimes I’ll ask them questions and we’re learning from one another, but there’s definitely that [culture] gap. It’s different. It just is. And it’s always trying to find common ground with our guys.”
The Celtics have won four of their last five, and Horford’s nine rebounds per game represent his most since 2013-14. And his bond with Jayson Tatum has been strong for years.
“We have a good enough relationship that if I need to say something I will,” Horford said. “I think they understand. I think the biggest thing is finding the balance. It’s not my personality and it’s not how I am to begin with. I can’t tell them every single time where they’re messing up. You have to pick your spots. Make them understand. I feel like I’m able to get to the guys and they’ve always been good about asking me questions.”
A few years ago in the Celtics locker room, Tatum asked Horford what year he was drafted. When Horford said 2007, Tatum reacted, “Damn, Al, I was 9 years old.”
“It really put in perspective to me how much the league has changed,” Horford said. “The focus now, how guys want to play the game. Even last year, they were very receptive, very willing. I know even more when is the right time to talk, to pick my spots leading my example. Getting them to ask questions about that. Having good, healthy talk with them. That’s kind of what I learned.”
Being 35 in the NBA is considered nearly ancient. The NBA’s youngest player is 16 years Horford’s junior, so age jokes are going to be constant. He said he understands age will always be a topic of conversation.
“My wife is like, ‘I don’t understand it. Why is that a thing?’ ” Horford said. “I’m kind of used to it because when I was 30 here, I feel like people were bringing it up. I feel really good physically. I know where I’m at and I know what I can do. I’m 35, but as long I am putting and I can keep playing at a high level, I’ll be fine.”
Brown is a man
of the future
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is a sneaker free agent after his contract with Adidas expired earlier this year. For NBA players, shoe deals are a major source of revenue and personal expression, so his next shoe decision is significant. Brown has since worn various brands, including New Balance and Nike. Like other decisions, such as choosing an agent and become a leading voice in the Players Association, Brown will approach this with careful consideration.
“I want the shoe company that I go with to match some of my brand values,” he said. “Some brands have an expectancy that, ‘We’ve been this brand and we’re not doing anything different.’ It’s a new day and age … It’s about to be 2022. I think the current model of the athlete has changed. I’d like to represent that in order to be a voice off and on the court. Things should match imagery.”
Brown has created his own clothing brand, “Juice,” and said he will select a shoe company that aligns with his philosophies.
“I’m looking for a shoe company that’s progressive, cutting edge, that keeps an open mind,” he said. “That’s also leaning toward doing things in the community, as well as environment friendly, sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable products. I’m looking for the brand of the future, not the brand of the past.”
Brown did not rule out the possibility of creating his own shoe company. Several athletes over the past several years have had major influence on the design and price of their shoes.
“We had the same model of approach for the last 20 years in terms of how to operate,” he said. “I think maybe the approach should change going forward in the future. Athletes have changed, the way to have influence, to way to reach globally, having a brand partner should match that. The shoe company is definitely out there. If not, it could be created and started from scratch.”
Look out for No. 1
As college basketball season begins, the focus is on two players who will vie to be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Chet Holmgren is a lanky, Kevin Durant type from Gonzaga. Holmgren has received more publicity than his competitor for No. 1, Paolo Banchero of Duke. Banchero is another in the Seattle pipeline of players and is considered a can’t-miss prospect.
Banchero, 6-foot-10-inch forward, scored 22 points with seven rebounds and two steals in Duke’s season-opening win over Kentucky.
“He’s a lot better than he was a month ago because he’s learned to play strong with the ball and not — he over-dribbled a couple times, but usually he’s been smart with it and he’s becoming a better athlete,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s a special player and you can coach him hard.”
Krzyzewski, who is in his final season, said Banchero has the potential to be one of the program’s greats. He’s encouraging him to become more of a leader.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you say what you’re thinking?’ " Krzyzewski said. “Because he’s thinking good stuff and if he says it, that will help lead. [Teammate] Wendell [Moore] does that. I think if those two guys will do that more we would be better. But he’s going to keep getting better. He’s the real deal. There’s no question about it.”
Banchero, the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2021, has been on NBA radars the past few years. He was excited about playing his first game at Madison Square Garden.
“It definitely [lived up to expectations],” he said. “I don’t know, it’s almost like you get lost in it. Like, it don’t even really affect you just because like you literally get lost in it. That’s what it felt like. We were just out there playing and it was a great crowd, it was loud, energetic.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari recruited Banchero vigorously but fell short.
“He’s really good. Great kid, great family. Really good,” Calipari said. “I don’t take this stuff personal. I hope he does well and I hope we play him again and he doesn’t play so well. But his dad is Italian and he’s an Italian citizen. So am I. I got a passport. And I still didn’t get him. I don’t know. But you know, I mean, he’s good. The thing that they have done right now is he’s in better shape.”
There could be major changes soon in Portland as Trail Blazers president Chris McGowan resigned this past week and there is an investigation into the behavior of general manager Neil Olshey. The NBA is already investigating Suns owner Robert Sarver amid allegations of sexism, racism, and misogyny. With Olshey, it’s his alleged verbal abuse of staff members because of his admitted fiery temper. The Blazers are off to a rough start while guard Damian Lillard has committed again to the franchise, but will these front-office developments encourage the franchise to start over? … There seems to be no end in sight to the Ben Simmons situation. The three-time All-Star remains out after informing the 76ers he is not mentally prepared to play. The 76ers want Simmons to attend games, practices, and shootarounds but he’s resisted. Simmons would like to be traded but GM Daryl Morey wants All-Star players and draft picks in return for a player whose stock is at an all-time low. The Celtics were interested but not if the deal involved Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum. The 76ers are playing well with second-year guard Tyrese Maxey assuming starting point duties. He is averaging 17.1 points, eclipsing the 30-point mark in each of the last two games … Gary Payton II was eventually going to break through and become a consistent player and that appears to be happening with the Warriors, with Payton’s defense and energy helping the club to a league-best 10-1 start. Payton, the son of Hall of Famer Gary Payton, has bounced around the NBA and G-League since 2016. The Warriors waived former Celtic Avery Bradley to make room for Payton on the opening-night roster and he’s averaged 10 points over his past five games … The situation with Marvin Bagley III in Sacramento seems dire as the former lottery pick refused to enter a recent game. Bagley, expected to be a cornerstone when drafted in 2018, has played one game (10 minutes) this season and wants to be traded, but the Kings continue to keep him on the bench. Bagley averaged nearly 15 points per game as a rookie, but his numbers have declined since.