After all these years, Marcus Smart still remembers the night he first played with Kevin Garnett.
The current Boston Celtics core guard and Garnett never crossed paths in Boston. Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded together to the Brooklyn Nets before Smart was drafted sixth overall by the Celtics in 2014, but their connection to this team, their identical passion for the game, their perseverance, immediately resonated between them.
Smart always remembered his first NBA game, which was the Celtics vs. the Nets and Garnett’s game.
I was defending Jarrett Jack (Bucks guard) and a ball dropped and me, Jared Sullinger and Garrett were all fighting for it and I was the first one on the floor to get it,” recalled Smart. I remember getting the ball and throwing it to Jeff Green, who was open for a dunk, and I remember KG falling right on top of me. After that, he patted me down and said, ‘Good job, young man.’ You know how much the KG team cares about that kind of behavior. Showing respect to people is very rare for him, especially when he’s playing. So that was a great moment for me. It was a moment of, ‘I can do this, I’m doing the right thing.'”
“It’s crazy and ridiculous and taken for granted.” Smart said, “I think it’s not just us, everybody’s excited. Even if you’re not a Boston fan, considering everything he did in the game, you’re excited for him.”
On March 14, Garnett, 45, walked into TD Garden in black and set the entire arena on fire once again. Garnett looked as if he could still inject 10 minutes of tenacity into the Celtics by slapping his big hands on the mahogany parquet floor as he sauntered through the aisles and out to the center circle, looking down at the sign of his reinvigorated team.
Over the past few years, accolades have hit the retired Garnett like a spring rain. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, he joined forces with a host of former rivals and teammates to become the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Top 75 Superstar, and his memoir became one of the nation’s best-selling autobiographies. Now, he is going to receive another supreme honor – jersey retirement.
Before that, he walked into the Celtics’ locker room. The Celtic staff told him that there will now always be a place for him in the dressing room. “I WANT TO BE KNOWN AS THE BEST TEAMMATE EVER. (I want to be likened to the best teammate ever.)” Garrett’s quote is emblazoned on the wall at the entrance to the locker room. Smart’s locker is the first in the entrance, closest to the quote. This young man, who in the first game of his career sparred with Garnett for floor balls, is without a doubt the KG of the moment on this team, and the most popular teammate.
The game rallied from a 13-point deficit as Jayson Tatum’s game-winning 3-pointer bounced off the rim and the Mavericks came back from a 13-point deficit to turn the game around, 95-92. An afternoon worth celebrating had a few more regrets. Maverick head coach Jason Kidd patted Garnett as he left the court, man, sorry to spoil your day.
Although the two Hall of Famers never played together in the NBA, they enjoyed games together on Team U.S.A., All-Star. 2013-14, Kidd had the opportunity to coach Garnett directly. In Kidd’s eyes, Garnett has the work ethic and competitiveness that makes coaching him a “coach’s dream.
“As a teammate, you’re asking a guy who comes to practice every day.” Kidd replied in the interview, “Just the output he puts into practice is unbelievable. He has so much energy and he’s so much fun to be around. You know you have to be ready to go.”
From the moment the Celtics brought Garnett in from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a big “seven-for-one” trade in 2007, players, coaches and staff agreed that his arrival changed the entire look of the team. And so it is, Garnett has reshaped the Celtics’ backbone.
That summer, Garnett went to the Celtics’ Waltham training facility right after the trade was completed, underwent a physical and received a general report from the Celtics on his new future job.
At one point, several people lost contact with Garnett. After looking around they found him on the practice floor, alone and staring thoughtfully at those NBA championship banners hanging from the ceiling.
He was engrossed,” recalled Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren. We’ve signed and traded for a lot of different players, but none of them would actually take the time to really soak it in like he did.”
Because of this incident, the team quickly learned about his qualities. Garnett’s best known trait is his unwavering toughness. Throughout his career, everyone who came in contact with him marveled at his indomitable will. Most famously, Doug Rivers was forced to end his off-day workouts early because of him. During the first few practices of the 2007-08 season, then head coach Rivers had given Garnett a privilege because they both decided it wasn’t necessary to put the team’s cornerstone player on both offense and defense through too much basic training.
“KG didn’t want to be special at all, so when he was thrown off the practice team, he would start sprinting and running on the sidelines all by himself.” Said former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Angel, “That’s him declaring in his own way, ‘I’m going to keep working even though you’re taking me off the team.'”
Garnett, with the ball in one hand and his practice clothes on, ran and shouted the same things he did during the game, even ducking to avoid colliding with others.
As time went on, this approach became very common. During one practice, Garrett was once again scheduled to rest, but he was also once again pounding the ball alone on the sidelines.
“We looked over to him and he was just saying to himself ‘Come on, KG, don’t let them beat you! You’re better than them!'” Leon Bowie, a member of the 2008 championship team, said, “Every practice run on the field, he fought hard to get to the front of the pack, and every time he got behind, he would get mad at himself. Those of us who saw that were like, ‘What the hell is going on with Big Ballot (Garnett’s nickname)?'”
Brian Scalabrine prefers to tell the story of how Garnett giggled while watching the animated sitcom “House of Mischief” in the cramped training room inside the home locker room. But as soon as it’s time for kickoff, Garrett immediately shifts into game mode.
One game day, Skara Bryan walked by Garrett’s room and Garrett said to him, Hey this TM is too funny. Skara Bryan laughed and agreed, then left. After a while, he forgot to get his wrist guards and walked back in.
“Exactly 30 seconds ago, we were laughing about that cartoon. So I made a few jokes about it, but KG suddenly just snapped his face and said, ‘Hey, damn it, focus! We’re going to focus up!’ I look up and it turns out the clock starts ticking an hour before the game starts, and I’m like, oh my bad, I grabbed my wrist brace and left.” Skara Bryan said.
The season before Garnett came to the Celtics, the “powerhouse” team had just 24 wins and 58 losses, the second-lowest in the league. It is still hard to believe that in just one year, the Celtics, who had been sinking for 21 years, were on top of the world and became NBA champions. There are always people who believe that as long as the “Big Three” are assembled, they can win the title in place. However, for more than a decade, it has been proven that no championship team is led by the “Big Three” temporarily assembled that season, LeBron James did not do it, Durant, Irving and Harden did not do it either.
“Garnett has a ton more energy in him than any player I’ve ever seen. He’s like a kid who just got drafted. Because that’s his style, because of his excitement and energy, because of his rapport with Pierce and Ray Allen and how rare they are together.” Angie had this to say.
Garnett is like one of those radiant, confident people in your circle of friends who, when he approaches, has an energy and aura that changes the entire space. Former Celtics physical coach Brian Du confessed that before Garnett joined, Paul Pierce’s work ethic had been very serious, but when Garnett announced he was joining, Pierce seemed like a completely different person. Pierce realized that he was being watched by the same level of superstars, and he had to come up with the strongest performance.
Bill Russell compared Garnett to another version of himself after he joined the Celtics. in March 2008, after the Celtics beat the Pistons to clinch an early playoff berth, Russell came into the locker room to have a face-to-face meeting with Garnett.
“I’m always saying, you’re my favorite player to watch from the sidelines.” The Celtics’ all-time best player had said to Garnett.
Reid Auerbach, the chief architect and founding father of the Celtics dynasty, wrote in his book, “When the game was on the line and the ball was in a position where you could all scramble for it, Russell was unparalleled.” Forty years later, even though Garnett couldn’t do what Russell did to go 10-0 in a steal, he approached every play, every scramble, every round with the same level of commitment. Scrambling, shoving, ranting, stepping up to protect his teammates, and treating his opponents with chatter.
Tony Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo …… More than one teammate was surprised by his focus on the game.
He doesn’t allow us to fool around and get into the game,” Bass said. Even if it wasn’t even a playoff game, it was just a regular season game.”
Bradley: “I’ve seen him yell and scream before a game just because somebody had music playing before the game. He takes the game as seriously as I’ve ever seen him take it.”
Everything on the court is worthy of his seriousness, and every detail counts. In his six years with the Celtics, Mike Zarren said “KG has been consistent, he hasn’t changed a bit.”
Skara Bryan: “It’s hard to find a guy who is as focused on basketball and as willing to give to his teammates as Garnett. No one cares more about his teammates than Garnett. No player in the history of the game is better than him in my eyes.”
him forever. The game against the Lone Ranger ended, leaving about 30 minutes of empty space on the floor. The team’s staff was setting up the floor, a dimly lit scene still reeling from the loss. When Garnett took the court, he quickly let the pain from the loss dissipate with a few words, infusing everyone on the floor with energy and enthusiasm in his own way.
“Listen, I know you’re all with me, but what I don’t know is you’re fucking standing with me like this.” Garnett finished, then got up and pounded his chest as his roar grew louder and louder.
It was a night that belonged to Garnett, yet not just to Garnett. Garnett’s former teammates, members of the 2008 title-winning team, arrived early, and Eddie House, Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins were hanging around the court nearly an hour before tipoff. Pierce shot a video and posted it to social media.
Life is made up of many memories, and spending time together is making memories. His memories have you and your memories have him, and that’s the best.
So the moment he returns, the spring breeze rises, the ice melts, and the sleeping mind is gently knocked awake.
Ray Allen, one of the “Big Three”, is here. Ten years have passed since he decided to leave the Celtics for the Heat in 2012. Ray Allen’s move to the Heat hurt Garnett, and he never hid his emotions. But in the past few years, Garnett has become less obsessed. Pierce, Allen and Garnett posed for a photo together at the Big 75 party during All-Star Weekend, which has signaled that the relationship between the three of them has thawed.
During a timeout in the first quarter of the game, Allen appeared on the big screen, where he received a warm and sustained applause. During the ceremony, Garnett interrupted Scalabrine’s Q&A session by grabbing the microphone and calling out Allen, who was sitting next to Pierce.
“I want to say something.” Garnett said, “It’s great to see Ray Allen here. Really.” Allen got up from his chair and walked toward Garnett at midcourt, and the two embraced in an excited hug. Moments later, Pierce joined in. Under that championship banner they had won that year, the Big Three were truly together again, reunited 14 years after winning the Green’s only championship since 1986.
“Ray’s next, damn it, you’re next.” Garnett said. Yes, Garnett was referring to Allen’s Celtics No. 20 jersey. Maybe Allen has taken a few steps toward that possibility, knowing that this is his first time back at TD Garden in nearly eight years.
“I was hesitant when it came time to announce the jersey retirement, not because I didn’t want it here, but because I wasn’t sure Kevin wanted me to be here.” Allen said, “I was never sure if he wanted to. I love this building and I haven’t been here in a long time, so I wanted to stand in front of the fans.”
In the 2010-11 season, the Celtics were defeated 4-1 in the playoffs by the new “Big Three” of James, Wade and Bosh. After winning the series, James dropped to one knee to cover his face and sobbed for a long time without getting up. For the NBA, this victory meant a new “Big Three era” at the time. However, the three men were not crushed at the end of the season.
The three sat together, facing the ESPN camera also open heart to speak freely, Garnett said: “This season, we are from all sides is not easy, we have set the height of their own team, when we lost two or three games, everyone will ask: ‘What happened this season? “
“We’re a team. If a warrior’s armor breaks, you know what happens? Lose the game.” Garrett said, “But you have to get up again and recover from the broken armor. I’ve lost my mind sometimes and it’s discouraging.”
At the time, Ray Allen said, “We’ve played long enough to know every kind of trap, very few we haven’t seen, and all three of us know to each other that no matter what happens, the game has to be played.”
After the first loss to the Heat, all three men reflected individually. Allen was blunt in front of the camera, in front of the other two: “What didn’t you do? What did you do? I don’t want any regrets between the three of us.”
Ten years have passed and all grudges can seem to die in a mutual smile.
“No words are needed to communicate.” Allan said, “Just being around each other and talking is enough. We’re old men now, we have nothing to sit down and be angry about, after all, we did something very special together.”
The two finals experience has made the “Big Three” work seamlessly with each other, playing the game is a set of Mozart-style classical music. Whenever they play, it is unparalleled and perfect. If you change one note, the piece will lack rhythm, if you change one phrase, the structure of the piece will disintegrate.
Garrett’s controversial comments, appropriate or inappropriate, his long-winded trash talk and profanity are all part of who he is. If he’s your teammate, he’d die for you, and if you turn out to be his on-court rival, he’ll be doing it to you even if you’re his own brother. This is probably the best teammate ever and the reason why he is so infectious.
Those who were there, those who weren’t, Rondo, Kevin McHale, Sam Cassell, Rivers, they all talk about Garnett’s dedication, his insatiable desire to win. And it was all a little overwhelming for Garnett to hear.
“It’s incredible, guys. I can’t imagine, I didn’t expect this at all.” Garnett, 45, watched the video playing on the big screen, unaware that two lines of tears were trickling down from the corners of his eyes.
The trio reunited, taking away all the questions and replacing them with hugs, tears and grateful smiles. This time, as Allen had hoped: no more regrets between the three.
Celtics history connects every generation, and each of the 17 championships deepens the connection between the past and the present. A few moments later, Garnett walked to the sidelines and, with Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” blaring, he pulled the rope with his daughters to slowly raise the jersey banner labeled No. 5 to the top of the dome. Next to his No. 5 is Pierce’s No. 34 NBA jerseythen next to the championship banner that he, Pierce and Ray Allen raised together 14 years ago.
I’ve waited my whole life for this moment, can you feel it coming from the night sky tonight.
The best teammate Garnett, the most incomparable Garnett, the Garnett who gave 100% every game.
“I love you, Boston.” Garnett said. After saying that, he struck his heart again.