Kevin Garnett has always been a record-breaker. After all, he became the first player to get drafted straight out of high school since 1975. For more than two decades, the longtime Timberwolves and Celtics forward dominated opponents with his length, tenacity and toughness.
As it turns out, The Big Ticket’s decision to skip school and jump directly to the NBA was a financial gamble worth taking. And fittingly, he set another NBA record in the process.
Kevin Garnett drafted by Minnesota Timberwolves out of high school
Born in South Carolina, Kevin Garnett actually did not begin playing organized basketball until high school. After running into some legal troubles, he transferred from Mauldin High to Farragut Career Academy in Chicago. Once again, that decision proved to pay off in the long run. Garnett earned National High School Player of the Year honors from USA Today and earned Most Outstanding Player at the famous McDonald’s All-American Game.
A physical marvel, Garnett ultimately eschewed college for the opportunity to play in the NBA. The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted the uber-athletic power forward with the fifth overall pick. And while Jerry Stackhouse (third overall) and Rasheed Wallace (fourth overall) enjoyed lengthy NBA careers, neither measured up to Garnett’s Hall of Fame resume.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pounder did not immediately take the league by storm. But by his second season, he had shown enough flashes of brilliance to earn his first of 15 NBA All-Star selections. Over the next decade, Garnett established a reputation as a top-10 NBA player. His combination of scoring prowess, tough rebounding and lockdown defense helped him earn the 2004 MVP award after he averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.0 blocks per game.
Garnett won only NBA title with the Boston Celtics
Despite all his individual success, Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves could never get over the playoff hump. Though Minnesota did make the postseason in eight straight seasons, Garnett and his team bowed out in the first round in seven consecutive years before falling in the 2004 Western Conference Finals.
But in the summer of 2007, everything changed for Garnett. The Celtics traded a huge package of players and draft picks to acquire the All-Star forward. The deal turned out to be one of the best of Danny Ainge’s career. After bringing in fellow veteran Ray Allen to go along with Celtics star Paul Pierce, Boston finally had a trio worth comparing to their original three-headed monster of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.
With Garnett as the vocal and on-court leader, the Celtics went from worst to first overnight. All three stars sacrificed their individual numbers for the betterment of the team and it paid off. Garnett averaged 18.8 pounds, 9.2 and 1.3 blocks for a 66-16 Boston team and won the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year Award. In the playoffs, Garnett took his game to another level. Over 26 games, he averaged 20.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 49.5 percent shooting. Boston won its first title since 1986 and KG famously let everyone know that anything is possible.
Former MVP set NBA record for career earnings
Six years in Boston gave Garnett a ring and a ton of money in the bank. He and Pierce then got traded to Brooklyn in a rebuilding move by Ainge. Garnett actually finished his career back in Minnesota before retiring after the 2015-16 season.
In 22 NBA seasons, Garnett not only dominated on the court but also at the bank. His most lucrative season came in 2003-04 when he hauled in $28 million from the Timberwolves. He even ended his career by making another $16.5 million from the team that took a major gamble on him in 1995.
As for the record Kevin Garnett should be most proud of? According to Spotrac, his $334 million in career earnings is the most of any NBA player. Kobe Bryant ranks second with $323 million.