While he may have burst onto the NBA scene with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett also suited up for the Boston Celtics. The forward didn’t waste any time in Beantown, quickly establishing himself as a locker room leader and helping the club lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Some of his leadership techniques, however, were a bit unconventional. Just ask Rajon Rondo.
According to KG’s version of events, the point guard threw the ball away on two straight possessions, then ignored him during a time-out huddle. That didn’t sit well with Garnett, so when Rondo began choking on his cup of water, the veteran refused to intervene.
Kevin Garnett was both a fiery competitor and a strong leader
It goes without saying that every professional athlete is competitive; you don’t reach the top of one of the most cut-throat jobs in the world without wanting to be the best. Kevin Garnett, however, took things to the next level.
While The Big Ticket possessed plenty of talent, he was also more than willing to push the envelope in pursuit of victory. Garnett earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s most ruthless trash-talkers and had no problem turning his gaze toward a teammate. In a 2015 ESPN story, for example, Jackie MacMullan detailed how the forward made Glen “Big Baby” Davis cry, fought with Wally Szczerbiak, and held virtually everyone he encountered to a high standard.
Although making coworkers cry isn’t exactly what you’d learn during leadership training, KG did take his role as an elder statesman seriously. MacMullan also described how Garnett, during his return to Minnesota, worked with a young Karl-Anthony Towns.
“One day the focus is on honing the prized elbow jumper; Garnett implores the rookie to take hundreds — no, thousands — of shots until it becomes second nature. The next day, it’s pump fakes and misdirections that will provide Towns with a straight line to the basket,” the veteran scribe explained. “There are countless drills for footwork, including one Garnett invented that requires players to maneuver around shoes pointed at various angles to mimic the opponent’s defensive position. ‘Attack the feet!’ KG bellows, the line between mentor and coach graying by the instruction. ‘Attack the feet!'”
Kevin Garnett once refused to help a choking Rajon Rondo during a Boston Celtics huddle
While Garnett put Towns through some fairly normal basketball paces, he also had some less-conventional tools in his leadership arsenal. During his time in Boston, Rajon Rondo learned that the hard way.
As The Big Ticket explained in a TBS Storyville video, the Celtics headed to Chicago for a date with the Bulls. The visitors got off to a slow start and struggled to keep control of the basketball. “We’re throwing the ball everywhere, and [we’re] just not really into the game for some reason,” Garnett explained. Those issues extended to Rondo, who turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions rather than making the simple pass.
KG, as you might expect, told the point guard to pull it together. Rondo “said something very aggressive” back, and Garnett returned the favor. When the whistle blew for a timeout, though, the veteran tried to smooth things over with a kind gesture. His teammate, however, didn’t exactly appreciate the gesture.
“You know, I took a water, and I went to pass it to ‘Do,” Garnett continued. “And he gave me the like, he was off, like he was acting like all into the huddle. … He went around me, got a water, and sipped it. And when he sipped it, it went down the wrong way.”
Rondo then began choking, but Garnett remained unmoved. Instead, he used the situation as a chance to hammer home his previous point.
“So I kinda look over to him, and he’s motioning [to] his back. And I’m like, “Nah, choke. Choke … Nah, kill. Nah, Nah, kill yourself. Die, die!'” KG continued. “As I’m saying this, the huddle’s still going on. Everybody’s looking at us. He was really choking, and I was like, ‘When somebody say pass the ball, pass the ball.'”
For the record, Rondo survived, and if Garnett is to be believed, the Celtics rallied to win the game.
Rajon Rondo also boxed Ray Allen during their time as Boston Celtics teammates
Kevin Garnett wasn’t the only Celtic to find himself clashing with Rondo, though. During their time on Boston, the guard and Ray Allen literally came to blows.
According to Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics considered trading Rondo for Chris Paul sometime around the 2008-09 NBA campaign. While Garnett and Paul Pierce opposed the deal, Allen thought Boston should pull the trigger. As you might imagine, that didn’t sit too well with Rondo.
In an attempt to squash that beef, the players “brought boxing gloves to the gym and [Rondo and Allen] got on boxing gloves.” While it’s not clear who won the fight, Perkins explained they went at it for about two rounds.
If nothing else, it’s safe to say that being a member of the 2000s Boston Celtics wasn’t for the faint of heart.