Every Boston Celtics fan will remember this moment, and it’s a quote that has become synonymous with Kevin Garnett’s career. No one will ever forget the sound of Garnett’s now-signature “Anything’s possible!” as the Celtics and their fans celebrated Banner 17 in June 2008, with confetti descending from above and the Larry O’Brien trophy gripped between his palms.
The best power of Kevin Garnett is being a lifelong Celtics fan.
That night, I was there ostensibly as a sports reporter but primarily as a lifelong Celtics fan. “I got mine,” Garnett quietly whispered over and over as he leaned into Celtics veteran Bill Russell, he of the 11 championship rings, from the side of the parquet court. Mine arrived. “I got mine,” she said before adding, “and I hope we did you proud.”
As a Celtic, I grew to admire Kevin Garnett, who eventually became one of my all-time favorite players. With only one championship in six seasons in Boston, I believed it was a long shot that his No.
5 would be put to the rafters of TD Garden with Russell, colleague Paul Pierce, and the other Celtic greats. He was a fantastic player, but he only spent a portion of his Hall of Fame career with the Celtics, so it seemed doubtful that he’d join the Celtics’ longer-serving players on those retired number banners.
But, I suppose, everything is possible, as Garnett lifted his No. 5 at the Garden last night, and I honestly have no idea why I ever doubted it.
I covered the Boston Celtics for the Standard-Times for more than a decade. After firing Rick Pitino the previous season, I started when the Celtics were at their lowest moment. In my first season covering the team, they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and advanced to the playoffs in each of the following three seasons.
Then the bottom fell out, and the Celtics missed the playoffs over the next two seasons, including a disastrous 24-58 season in 2006-07, in which the C’s lost 18 games in a row at one point.
Something radical had to happen in the following off-season, and it wasn’t going to be choosing someone with the fifth overall pick in the forthcoming draught – which, by the way, was the Celtics’ worst-case scenario in the draught lottery, meaning they missed out on Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.
On Draft Night, then-Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge made a trade that appeared to make the Celtics much better, giving that fifth pick, along with Wally Szczberiak and Delonte West, to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for future Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
That was only the first domino to fall that season, as Ainge pulled off what may be the single greatest trade in NBA history, and probably the largest trade for a single player in league history, when he traded about half the squad to Minnesota in exchange for Garnett a little more than a month later.
When I received the email informing me that a press conference would be held later that day at TD Garden, I was less than enthusiastic about the transaction.
I got in the car and started driving from Wareham to Boston, thinking about how he seemed like the wrong guy for what Boston needed at the moment, rather than what a tremendous player the Celtics were going to bring to town.
Garnett was undeniably a fantastic player; he was a powerful scorer and a tenacious defender. But what troubled me was that he was extremely emotional and wasn’t the kind of leader the Celtics needed – or so I believed. At the time, all I could think of was how Paul Pierce had yet to prove he could be a true captain, and how Allen was a quiet, restrained guy, and how they needed a true general on the floor.
I didn’t think KG was the right fit, but I was completely wrong. I believe this interview he conducted in Minnesota with John Thompson, where he started crying because his team had lost so much, damaged my perception of him. I took that at the time as complaining rather than what it was – a guy who was so desperate to win that it physically hurt him not to.
It didn’t take me long to discover that after the Celtics began their 2007-08 season. Garnett was the team’s heart and soul, setting the tone with his zeal and determination to go to any length to win.
As the new Big Three found a way to sacrifice a little of each of their personal games to become stronger as a team, he also elevated up Pierce – who truly became a true captain – and Allen. The Celtics not only went 66-16 that season and won the NBA title, but they also gave the team an identity that they still have today.
Garnett didn’t give it a name until 2012, but the Celtics had been demonstrating grit and balls since he first donned the green and white: grit and balls. That’s how he described the team, but it’s truly the imprint he made on the franchise.
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Sure, KG had a good time as well. Nobody was more eager about “Gino Time” at the Garden, when the JumboTron would show a clip from an old ’70s episode of “American Bandstand” featuring a disco dancer wearing a Gino Vannelli t-shirt, and the audience – including Garnett – would erupt in applause.
Who could forget the way he would worm his way into the opposition’s psyche? Even if his ex-wife La La and KG deny the tale (which we can’t post here, so you’ll have to Google it), I’m sure Carmelo Anthony never allowed another box of Honey Nut Cheerios into his home again.
Garnett only stayed in Boston for six seasons, according to his records. Nonetheless, he actually lived up to and reinvented what it meant to be a Celtic during that period.