It was always going to happen. Kevin Garnett couldn’t play forever and over the last couple of years, he could barely get on the court to play at all. 55,000-plus minutes in the NBA will do that to you. 21 years doing anything will do that to you, especially when it comes to physical activity. But it’s still weird on every level to have followed his entire career with my elbows on my knees and my hands under my chin marveling at what KG was able to do on a basketball court and write the following sentence:
Kevin Garnett is retiring from the NBA.
The Star Tribune reported that a buyout was happening and an announcement was coming. The Minnesota Timberwolves sent out a press release making those reports very real.
Kevin Garnett Announces Retirement
Wolves All-Time Leader in Numerous Categories Ends Career After 21 Seasons
Minneapolis/St. Paul – Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett today announced that he will retire after a 21-year NBA career, 13-plus of those with the Timberwolves. Garnett led the Wolves to the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, culminated by an appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 2004. After being traded to Boston on July 31, 2007, Garnett led the Celtics to the NBA title the following season.
“It has been a real joy to watch KG come into the league as a young man and watch him develop his skills to become one of the very best in the NBA,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. “I have treasured the opportunity to see him grow as a leader. I wish him continued success in the next chapter of his life. His Minnesota fans will always cherish the memories he has provided.”
Selected by the Timberwolves with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, Garnett was the first player selected directly out of high school since 1975. He was named the NBA Most Valuable Player following the 2003-04 season. Over his career, Garnett recorded nine All-NBA Team selections,12 All-Defensive Team selections and was tabbed to play in 15 NBA All-Star Games. For his career, Garnett averaged 17.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
Garnett retires as the Wolves’ all-time leader in numerous categories, including games played (970), minutes (36,189), points (19,201), rebounds (10,718), blocked shots (1,590), assists (4,216), steals (1,315), double-doubles (607) and triple-doubles (16).
The 6-11 forward’s name is also prominent in the NBA all-time record book. Garnett finishes his career ranked fifth in games played (1,462), third in minutes (50,418), 17th in points (26,071), 11th in field goals made (10,505), ninth in total rebounds (14,662), first in defensive rebounds (11,453), 16th in steals (1,859) and 17th in blocks (2,037).
Garnett appeared in 143 playoff games, averaging 18.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 bpg and 1.2 spg. In addition to winning the NBA title in 2008, Garnett and the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals in 2010, with Boston losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
KG posted an Instagram video in which he talked about how thankful and surprised at the amount of love he was given, and that while he doesn’t expect this to be an easy thing for him to do, it’s alright so far.
Karl-Anthony Towns tweeted out ellipses on ellipses in response shortly after the news broke — almost caught off guard by the inevitable course of action that was always coming.
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) September 23, 2016
There’s a reason people have never played 22 years in the NBA before. KG was hoping to be the first. We knew he was working out this summer like he always did. We knew he was hoping to be the first person in NBA history to get to that 22nd season. But we also knew that even if that happened, there wasn’t going to be much left in the tank. It was always going to be a struggle — an overwhelming task of climbing out of quicksand — to make his way onto the court every night or every other night or even just 20 times in a season.
The work Garnett put in on a daily basis in order just to be a hopeful gametime decision resonated with the young players on the roster. When Flip Saunders brought KG back to Minnesota, it was as a mentor and a bridge from the only success the franchise has ever had to the future success the young players would be required to build. Garnett was there to show Andrew Wiggins what it means to be a two-way player. He was there to show Zach LaVine that being in the gym all the time isn’t enough and you have to grow and build upon your time in the gym.
And when the Wolves won the lottery of the decade and selected Towns with the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, it was to pass the torch to the next great franchise player of this team. When I talked with Towns back in the end of the 2015-16 season, he talked about what a blessing it was to have KG as an every day example.
It’s big because he’s been through so many years of this. He’s already a first ballot Hall of Famer with just his skillset. His ability to give me stuff to do every single day that I may know or may not know or a different way of doing something allows me to a lot of things better and easier on the court. Experience comes a long way in this game, especially. To almost gain an enormous amount, years and years of experience – not just experience but Hall of Fame caliber experience is a blessing.
In a brief encounter with KAT in the last couple weeks, Towns referenced KG multiple times in a relatively short conversation. The mentor aspect of this relationship was so important to Towns, and the young big man’s insatiable hunger for work and success was something that brought about a mutual respect from Garnett that made him want to help Karl become all he could.
Coaching is not in KG’s DNA though and being a guy who accepts relegation to a bench just to be around the team was never going to happen. He doesn’t want to coach. He wants to play. And if he can’t play anymore, he wants to move on. I’m sure there will be dozens of great pieces remembering KG over the next couple weeks, and then again once he’s inducted into the 2021 Hall of Fame class with Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.
For now, KG’s career will always be something I marvel at. His retirement will be something that was inevitable and yet still shocking at the same time.
Kevin Garnett is retiring. He is retired. It’s a bizarre turn of predictability. It will take some time for me to get used to.