Kevin Garnett Biography
Kevin Maurice Garnett is a power forward for the Boston Celtics, who acquired him from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007. Garnett was the first of a wave of prep-to-pro superstars to bypass college entirely when he joined the NBA in 1995. A 14-time All-Star, Garnett is widely regarded as one of the best players to ever play his position, and cemented his legacy by winning his first NBA championship in 2008.
Garnett almost single-handedly changed the fortunes of the fledgling Timberwolves - bringing them to their only eight playoff appearances in team history - and along with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce helped bring a title back to Boston for the first time in 22 years. Conversely, the six-year, $126-million contract he signed in 1998 contributed greatly to the escalation in NBA salaries and ultimately to the 1998-99 lockout.
Garnett was born on May 19, 1976 in Greenville, South Carolina. Garnett and his two sisters were raised by their mother Shirley. When Shirley later married Kevin's stepfather, he was greeted with a parent who despised basketball. As a freshman entering Mauldin High School, Garnett stood at 6'6". He averaged 12.5 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks. That summer he joined an AAU team and continued to grow both physically and as a player. Around that time he started closely watching Malik Sealy at St. John's because he related to his length, quickness and physical style of play. He began emulating his game and changed his jersey number to 21 to replicate Sealy's. As just a junior he was named Mr. Basketball of South Carolina and carried his team to the state championship while averaging 28.5 points and 18.5 rebounds. In the summer of 1994 Garnett transferred to Farragut Academy in Chicago after being charged along with four others of second-degree public lynching during a school fight. Garnett maintained that he was an innocent bystander and the charges were dropped.
At Farragut, Garnett led the team to a 28-2 record, city title, and the state quarterfinals. He was named National High School Player of the Year by USA Today and was named Mr. Basketball of Illinois. Garnett averaged 25.2 PPG, 17.9 RPG, 6.7 APG, 6.5 BPG and shot 66.6% from the field. At the McDonald's High School All-American Game he was named Most Outstanding Player after producing 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots and leading the West to a 126-115 victory. For his four year high school career his totals were 2,533 points, 1,807 rebounds and 739 blocked shots.
According to one of the assistants at the Farragut Academy at least 23 NBA teams came down during Garnett's senior season to scout him. At the time only three players had made the jump directly from high school to the NBA - Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby - and it had been 20 years since the last person to do it. Garnett's standardized testing scores were so poor, however, that he wouldn't have been able to secure a Division I scholarship. At the 1995 NBA Draft the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kevin Garnett fifth-overall. Garnett was signed to a three-year, $5.6 million deal.
Dubbed "Da Kid" as a rookie, Garnett was raw. His low-post game needed improvement and he needed to work on his shooting. Most importantly at 6'11" he only weighed 220 pounds, leaving him severely undersized to compete against the larger forwards in the league. But in the six seasons since the Timberwolves became an expansion team they never managed to win 30 games, and Kevin McHale and team executives were determined to make him the cornerstone of the franchise.
Garnett's transition naturally wasn't such a smooth one for him or the team. After head coach Bill Blair started the season 6-14 he was canned in favor of Flip Saunders. Garnett spent the first half of the season coming off the bench, but when Christian Laettner vocalized his displeasure with the franchise's focus on Garnett he was shipped off to Atlanta. With Laettner gone Garnett was assured a starting spot at forward, and he started the final 42 games. As a starter he put up totals of 14.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.26 BPG while shooting 53.3% from the field. Garnett was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team and ranked 15th in the NBA in blocks per game with 1.6.
In the 1996 NBA Draft, Minnesota traded their No. 5 pick Ray Allen to the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 4 pick Stephon Marbury. Marbury had been close friends with Garnett from their high school days and the move was designed to create a long-term nucleus with them and Tom Gugliotta. With Marbury at point guard Garnett and the team showed steady improvement. Garnett averaged 17.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.1 BPG on his way to his first All-Star selection, and the Timberwolves won 40 games making the playoffs for the first time in team history. But in the first round they were swept by the Houston Rockets.
Because Garnett's first contract was to expire in the summer of 1998, Minnesota went about vigorously trying to secure a long-term deal before the start of the 1997-98 season. However, Garnett shocked Minnesota when he rejected their six-year, $103.5 million offer which would have made him the second-highest paid player behind Michael Jordan. Ultimately, the two sides agreed on a staggering six-year, $126 million deal. The Minnesota Star Tribune estimated that if you laid out his contract in $1 bills it would stretch almost halfway around the equator. Garnett's contract was a watershed moment for the call to reform the NBA's financial landscape. During the 1998-99 season the owners brought about the first work stoppage in NBA history, on the basis that they needed a new collective bargaining agreement that capped salaries. Under the new agreement, had Garnett waited until his contract was up, his six-year deal would have been capped at a little over $70 million.
The Timberwolves improved again in 1997-98 winning 45 games but Marbury began voicing his displeasure with Minneapolis and how he wasn't willing to sign on with the team for the rest of his career when his contract expired, because his contract would always be less than Garnett's. During the year Garnett broke the franchise single-season record for total rebounds and ranked 10th in the league with 9.6 RPG. He was also only one of four players in the NBA with 100+ steals and 100+ blocks. Again though, the Timberwolves were ousted in the first round of the playoffs, this time by the Seattle Supersonics.
The following season Tom Gugliotta was on the Suns and half the year was lost due to a lockout by the owners primarily because of escalating contracts. In March, Marbury was traded to the Nets in an eight-player three-team trade. "We were kind of forced into it," said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. The Timberwolves offered him a six-year $71 million deal - the maximum allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement - but Marbury wanted to play back home in the East. In the deal, Minnesota received Terrell Brandon from the Milwaukee Bucks to man the point guard position. Regardless of the roster changes Garnett continued to develop. He was 11th in the NBA in scoring with 20.8 PPG, ninth in rebounding at 10.4 RPG, 13th in blocks with 1.77 and he also dished out 4.3 APG. However, Minnesota limped into the playoffs as an eight-seed and again were ousted in the first round, this time by the Spurs.
During the 1999-2000 season Garnett became just the second player in the last 15 years to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He was named Player of the Week three times, Player of the Month in January and was voted to All-NBA First Team and All-Defense First Team. He also finished second in MVP voting behind Shaquille O'Neal. His former idol Malik Sealy was now a fixture in the starting lineup and the team won a franchise-record 50 games. Still, the Timberwolves couldn't get past the Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. In May of 2000 Malik Sealy was killed in a head-on auto collision.
The franchise was dealt another blow that off-season when it was discovered that the Timberwolves and Joe Smith agreed to a handshake deal on a maximum contract extension before he was free to sign one. The team was ultimately penalized three first-round draft choices and Kevin McHale was suspended for a year. The decision crippled the team's ability to surround Garnett with young talent and depth. Still, on November 9, 2000 Garnett became the Timberwolves all-time leading scorer. During that season, he replicated his 20/10/5 feat again. Though for the fifth straight time Minnesota lost in the opening round of the playoffs, this time to the Spurs.
The NBA allowed zone defenses in 2001-02 which allowed Garnett to showcase his versatility even more. Garnett averaged 21.2 PPG, a career-highs in rebounds (12.1 RPG) and assists (5.2 APG). He became just the fifth player in NBA/ABA history to record 20/10/5 in three straight seasons. He was voted to All-NBA Second Team and All-Defense First Team. On January 25, 2002 he became the Timberwolves all-time assist leader. After being ejected on February, 4 2002 his double-figure scoring streak came to an end at 338 - the eighth-longest streak in NBA history. The Timberwolves again won 50 games, but had their season ended in the first round for the sixth straight time after getting swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round.
Garnett was dominant in 2002-03 posting career-highs in points (23.0 PPG), rebounds (13.4 RPG), assists (6.0 APG), minutes (40.5 MPG) and FG% (50.2%). He now stood with Larry Bird as the only players in history to record 20/10/5 in four straight seasons. He tallied six triple-doubles, and was the first player since Larry Bird to rank top-15 in the league in assists, points and rebounds. He received All-NBA First Team and All-Defense First Team honors. He also finished second in Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player voting. He was named MVP of the NBA All-Star Game after putting up 37 points, nine rebounds and five steals. Garnett carried the team to a franchise record 51 regular-season wins. But because of the league's penalty from the Joe Smith incident the team lacked youth and depth for an extended playoff run and lost for the seventh straight time in the first round of the playoffs.
McHale took the pressure off of Garnett the following year when he brought in Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell to shoulder some of the offensive load. The moves paid off huge dividends as Minnesota finally had a breakout year. The Timberwolves won a franchise-record 58 regular-season games and Garnett was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player by receiving 120 out of 123 first-place votes. He was also selected to All-NBA First Team and All-Defense First Team. Garnett led the league with a career-high 13.9 RPG and in total points. By doing so he became the first player in 29 years to lead the NBA in both categories. In the first round of the playoffs Garnett and the Wolves finally burst through defeating the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the series. They then defeated the Sacramento Kings 4-3 in the Western Conference Semifinals but lost to the Lakers 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers roster included Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
In 2004-05 Garnett became the only player in NBA history to average 20/10/5 in six straight seasons when he recorded 22.2 PPG, 13.5 RPG and 5.7 APG. Although the Timberwolves took a major step backwards, going 44-38 and missing the playoffs for the first time since Garnett's rookie season.
With Sprewell and Cassell now gone the Timberwolves regressed even further going 33-49. In 2006-07 Garnett led the league in rebounds per game for the fourth straight season but with a depleted roster around him the team only managed to win 32 games. After the season owner Glen Taylor said he was open to listening to any offers as it became clear the Timberwolves were considering rebuilding the franchise.
In late July 2007 the Celtics and Timberwolves agreed on a 7-for-1 deal. Boston sent Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, two first-round draft picks and cash considerations for Garnett. Besides Ratliff, the Timberwolves received players who were all 24 or younger. The trade teamed up Kevin Garnett with Paul Pierce and recently acquired Ray Allen which was immediately billed as "The Big Three." At the press conference Garnett said: "This is probably my best opportunity at winning a ring." Without Garnett the Timberwolves won only 22 games in 2007-08.
The Celtics bulldozed through their regular-season schedule going 66-16 - the franchise's best record since 1985-86. With Doc Rivers maintaining a focus on defense the Celtics held opponents to a league low 90.3 PPG. Garnett was also awarded his first Defensive Player of the Year award. He also appeared in his 11th All-Star game as the league's top vote-getter. On March 8, 2008 he became just the 32nd player to reach 20,000 points in their career. In the playoffs the Celtics knocked off the Hawks, Lebron and the Cavaliers and then the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the NBA Finals the historic matchup of Lakers v. Celtics was revitalized. But in Game 6 "The Big Three" proved too much for Kobe and the Lakers to handle as the Celtics closed out the series with a lopsided 39-point victory. In a post-game interview after winning his first NBA title, Garnett overcome with emotion screamed out "anything is possible!."
In 2008-09 the Celtics started right back where they left off, starting the season 27-2. Garnett appeared in his 12th All-Star game but shortly after on February 19, 2009 Garnett strained his right knee while going up for an alley-oop. Garnett only saw brief action in four more games the rest of the season. Without Garnett in the NBA playoffs the Celtics lost to the Orlando Magic 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Garnett returned healthy for the start of the 2009-10 season, helping Boston get off to another dominating start. However, injuries once again began to take their toll, as Garnett missed 13 games and the Celtics slipped to the four seed in the Eastern Conference. By the time the playoffs started, Garnett and the rest of the team were healthy once again, and Boston experienced a resurgance, beating the fifth-seeded Heat, top-seeded Cavaliers and second-seeded Magic to reach the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons. The Celtics pushed the Lakers to the brink, splitting the first six games of the Finals, but without the injured Kendrick Perkins, Boston fell to L.A. in Game 7.
In 2010-11, Garnett was once again chosen as an All-Star, but failed to be voted in as a starter for the first time since the 2006 All-Star Game. Garnett's numbers improved across the board from the previous season, helping the Celtics jump from 50 wins to 56. Boston earned the 3 seed in the East, and swept the New York Knicks in the first round, with Garnett ending up on the winning side of a sweep for the first time in his career.
Following the 2011 NBA Lockout, Garnett's numbers decreased, as he began to show signs of age and wear and tear for his multiple injuries over the previous seasons. He missed the All-Star Game for the first time in his career (there was no All-Star Game in 1999), as the Celtics finished the regular season 39-27. However, late in the season, Garnett was moved to center and experienced a resurgance. After averaging just 15.8 points per game in the regular season, he increased that number to 19.2 in the postseason, shooting nearly 50% from the field. Garnett led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they held a 3-2 lead before falling to the Miami Heat in seven games.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Garnett won gold with such players as Ray Allen, Gary Payton, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Alonzo Mourning. During competition Garnett averaged 10.8 PPG and an Olympic-leading 9.1 RPG. The U.S. team went 8-0 and defeated France 85-75 in the gold medal round. Garnett was invited to participate again in 2004, but skipped the Olympics to get married to his longtime girlfriend Brandi Padilla that summer.