The NBA Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Nominees include Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and the late Kobe Bryant. Two of those players spent their entire careers with one franchise: Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs and Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. Garnett, meanwhile, spent the first 12 years of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, before being traded to the Boston Celtics.
Garnett recently appeared on the All the Smoke podcast hosted by Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. There he discussed his mentality at the time of the historic trade to Boston, outlining several of his different options. He also revealed that he had secretly hoped to end up in Los Angeles to play with Bryant. Here we take a quick look at Garnett’s career with the Timberwolves and Celtics, as well his surprising comments about the Lakers.
Kevin Garnett’s years in Minnesota
The Timberwolves selected Garnett with the fifth pick in the 1995 NBA draft. He was the first player to make the leap from high school to the NBA since 1975. Garnett came off the bench for the first half of his rookie year, before moving into the starting lineup. There he quickly established himself as a franchise-level star.
In that first year, Garnett averaged 10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game. By his sophomore season, those numbers had improved to 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game. His scoring and rebounding numbers would continue to rise in the following years, reaching a peak in the 2003-2004 season, when he averaged a career-best 24.2 points and 13.9 rebounds per game.
While in Minnesota, Garnett earned a reputation as one of the fearsome — and passionate — two-way players in the league. Nonetheless, the Timberwolves struggled to advance in the playoffs. The farthest they got was in the 2003-2004 season, when they made it to the Western Conference Finals, only to fall to the Lakers in six games.
Successful career in Boston
Garnett grew increasingly frustrated with the Timberwolves’ limitations in the following years, eventually resulting in his trade to Boston, where he spent six years. The trade paid off right away for the Celtics. Garnett, alongside teammates Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and sharpshooter Ray Allen, led the team to a championship victory over Bryant’s Lakers squad.
In 2009, Garnett’s Celtics fell to the Orlando Magic in the Conference Semifinals. They made it back to the Finals in 2010 playoffs, only to lose the Lakers in a heated seven-game series. Although the Celtics continued to compete at a high level, making it to the playoffs in all of Garnett’s seasons with the team, they did not go on to win another championship.
Kevin Garnett’s desire to link up with Kobe Bryant
Kevin Garnett wanted to get out of Minnesota in order to join a team with true championship potential. As he said on his recent All the Smoke appearance, Garnett wanted to end up with one of four teams: the Golden State Warriors (then based in Oakland), the Phoenix Suns, The Los Angeles Lakers, and the Boston Celtics.
Of those four teams, Garnett said that he was most interested in going to Los Angeles. The reason was Garnett’s desire to play with superstar Kobe Bryant.
Garnett said that he always had a special connection with Bryant. Not only did he respect Bryant, but, as Jackson pointed out, Bryant had a huge respect for “dogs” — in other words, players who approached the game with physicality and passion.
Garnett, of course, was just such a player. So why didn’t he end up on a team with Bryant? According to Garnett, the problem was a lack of communication. On the recommendation of Tyron Lue, Garnett tried to reach out Bryant several times, but couldn’t get ahold of him in time. In the end, he had to make the best decision available and chose to go to Boston.