Kevin Garnett isn’t surprised he’s made it this far, but one front-office executive didn’t see it coming.
“I told Kevin McHale (then general manager with the Minnesota Timberwolves) when I first came in here (the NBA) after my first practice — to be not cute or not, you know, kinda ‘smart’ — but he kinda cracked a joke that I had a bunch’a ice on me,” Garnett said. “I was just turning 19, and I was hurting and I told him that I wanna be in this league for half my life. And he kinda just giggled.”
Garnett shouted out McHale, now the coach of the Houston Rockets, and laughed at the memory. “But (McHale) never knew what was inside. So 19 years later, here we are … but I’m motivated, and I’ve always been motivated. I’ve never had a problem with that.”
Only three players before Garnett had previously played more than 20 seasons in the league. Kevin Willis’ career spanned for 23 years. Robert Parish played 21 seasons, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired after 20 seasons in the league.
By season’s end, Garnett will realize his goal: committing half of his life to the NBA.
“I’m aware of the history,” Garnett said. “This is what I love to do. If you can do something that you love to do for as long as you want to do it, or that you’re able to do it at a high level, and make a living out of it which is not a bad thing, then do it.”
Garnett was the same fiery and vocal presence during practice that has helped earned him the respect from his peers throughout his Hall-of-Fame career.
“You need a few guys, when the soreness starts to set in, to keep the temperature high. He’s definitely been that guy,” new teammate Jarrett Jack said of Garnett’s presence. “It takes a special person to do it 24/7 and really take that on as a job — or part of why people bring you in here … He’s been nothing but the consummate professional and I just foresee him being that person for us for all 82 games,” Jack added.
Garnett has flirted with the idea of retirement for the past three years, and even as championship aspirations began to spread over Brooklyn last season, Garnett was indecisive, needing a bit of coaxing from former teammate Paul Pierce and then-head coach Jason Kidd.
“Coming from Beantown, I didn’t really know what to expect. First year under Jason (Kidd, I) didn’t know where I fit in at. Obviously I understood coming in here, I knew it wasn’t going to be primary. What I mean by that: (no) big minutes, play-calling. So I wanted to facilitate and help Brook (Lopez) as much as I could, and Mason (Plumlee).”
After the season-ending loss against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Garnett used the offseason to refocus and better prepare himself for the upcoming season, leaving him with no doubts about his plans entering the 2014-2015 season.
“I knew I could do better,” Garnett said, later admitting that his contract played a part: “plus, I knew contractually, I knew I had to come in here and do that.”
Entering the final year of the three-year, $36 million deal he signed with Boston in 2012 –Garnett’s set to “run through the finish line.” Reading between the lines on his comments, it seems like Garnett is content with the idea that this is his final year. “I’m here to enjoy this,” he added. “You never know when it’s going to be your last. Watching (Derek) Jeter and his whole thing has been inspiring, and what I took from that is to enjoy this.”
But what’s next? He doesn’t know. When asked if he sees a life for himself on the sideline coaching the next generation of NBA talent, Garnett simply said: “Absolutely not. Hell no! I would use another word but I don’t want to get in trouble!”