Kevin Garnett’s High School Arrest Was a Huge ‘Wakeup Call’ to Escape the South

In 1995, Kevin Garnett was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the fifth overall pick in the NBA draft. Throughout his 21-season career, the power forward left a lasting impact on the game. However, a brush with the law during his youth almost sent Garnett on a completely different path.

Kevin Garnett’s early arrest

Garnett played his first three seasons of high school basketball at Mauldin High School. Mauldin is a small southern town in South Carolina. During the end of his junior year at Mauldin High, the school and town were plagued by a fair amount of racial tension. 

A race riot broke out at the school, as the Washington Post details. Kevin and four other black students were arrested and charged with second-degree lynching after a white student suffered a fractured ankle. However, witnesses of the incident indicated that Kevin had not been involved.

Eventually, Garnett was cleared of the charges, and his record was expunged, reports the Atlanta Black Star. Despite this, there are still some individuals to this day that believe Kevin was an active participant in the scuffle. 

While the outcome could have been much worse for Garnett, this brush with the law would always stay with him, driving him to achieve more. This incident also woke Garnett and his family up to the realities of living in the South as a black man. The Garnett family realized it was time for them to get out.

The Garnett family flees the South

After Garnett’s arrest and subsequent acquittal, Shirley Garnett moved her family to the Chicago suburbs. His mother saw no future for her family in the South after what Garnett went through.

To get out of South Carolina, Kevin had to go through a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders. This program is what allowed his charges to be dropped and for the family to move to Chicago. Garnett finished his high school basketball career at Chicago’s Farragut Academy.

Nike even showed interest in Garnett at a basketball camp in Chicago, reports the Orlando Sentinel, despite concerns over his arrest. Garnett decided to go straight to the NBA after failing to reach the minimum SAT score to qualify for an NCAA scholarship. It was a decision that paid off as he was able to achieve an illustrious 21 season career. 

Building a lasting legacy 

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In 1995, Garnett was the first player in over 20 years to get drafted straight out of high school. He was 19-years-old when he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He would stay at the Timberwolves for 12 seasons until being traded in a huge package deal to the Boston Celtics in 2007. 

It was at the Celtics that Garnett picked up his first and only NBA Championship in 2008. He would stay in Boston until 2013, when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Garnett played for the Nets until 2015 when he went back to where it all began, the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Garnett would finish out his NBA career with the Timberwolves, officially retiring from the league in 2016. Despite having spent the majority of his pro career with the Timberwolves, there is no love lost between Garnett and the franchise. Despite the hard feelings that exist, nothing can be taken away from Garnett’s incredible career. 

Throughout his 21 seasons in the league, Garnett scored 26,701 points and maintained an average of 17.8 points throughout his career. However, during his height in the league, Garnett averaged 20 or more points per game and led the NBA in rebounding for four consecutive years. 

Garnett certainly built a lasting legacy in the NBA and became a household name in the process. Luckily, Kevin Garnett’s life was not defined by his early brush with the law. Not everyone is fortunate enough to meet the same fate.