The culmination of a 21-year career and a Championship with the Boston Celtics has resulted in Kevin Garnett being elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, The Athletic’s Shams Charania, reported Friday.The fifth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1995 draft, the then 19-year-old would go on to be Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer.
When he retired in 2016, Garnett left the NBA as a one-time champion with the 2008 Celtics, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, a 15-time NBA All-Star and 2004 NBA MVP, just to name a few of his impressive feats.
Garnett was only one of five players to score at least 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists, joining Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. With over 26,000 total points, averaging 17.8 points per game, more than 14,600 rebounds, averaging 10 per game and almost 5,5000 assists with almost four per game, it is clear that The Big Ticket left his mark in the NBA.
Voted to the All-Rookie Second Team during his first season with the Timberwolves, Garnett carried a lot of the scoring load with teammate Tom Gugliotta. Garnett was the youngest player in NBA history during his rookie season. The Timberwolves suffered their seventh straight season with less than 30 wins. By 1997, Garnett was an All-Star along with Gugliotta, and the Timberwolves made their first playoff appearance in franchise history, losing to the Houston Rockets in the first round 3-0. The Timberwolves would make acquisitions to help Garnett out, and the team made the playoff eight years in a row and even had a franchise-record 58 wins in 2003.
Things changed for Garnett after he was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007 in exchange for a plethora of players and a first-round draft pick. The Celtics also acquired shooting guard Ray Allen from the Seattle SuperSonics that year. Despite giving up young assets, the Big Three was formed, consisting of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce. With a combined 21 All-Star appearances and a career scoring average of 65.6 points, the Big Three was one of the most feared trios in the NBA. In Garnett’s first season with the team, he helped lead them to his first NBA championship, and the Celtics’ first since 1986.
The Big Three came to an end in 2013 when Garnett and Pierce were traded to the Brooklyn Nets for younger players and draft picks. At this point in his career, Garnett was not seeing a lot of playing time. Despite his leadership and passion, he put up career-low numbers, finishing his 19th season with 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. The Nets made it to the Eastern Conference semi-finals but were defeated by the Miami Heat.
In 2015, Garnett waived his no-trade clause to be traded back to the Timberwolves. A knee injury caused him to miss most of the season; however, the following season, he played in 38 games. Veteran Garnett served as a mentor to the 2015 and 2016 first-round draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins and Towns both received NBA Rookie of the Year honors in their respective first seasons.
Garnett will be remembered as a player who left everything on the hardwood. His intense face and screaming on the court made him feared amongst his competitors.
Bryant was the youngest player to reach 25,000 points in the 2009-2010 season, passing Wilt Chamberlain. The Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, Bryant played through injuries to lead his team to the playoffs from 1997 to 2012, except for 2005. Of those playoff appearances, the Lakers won three in a row starting in 2000, and he started in every game. Though the end of his career was marred with injuries and a less than stellar team, Kobe went out scoring 60 points. Bryant single-handedly rallied in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz, who the Lakers were trailing most of the night.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant “one of the greatest players in the history of our game.”
Duncan also joined the list of legendary basketball players named to The Hall. The first overall pick in the 1997 draft, Duncan played his entire 19-year career with the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan is leaving as a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA MVP, NBA Rookie of the Year and is a 15-time All-Star.
The Spurs all-time leading scorer, Duncan scored almost 26,500 points, averaging 19 per game, 15,091 rebounds, averaging 10.8 per game and 4,225 assists, averaging three per game. A defensive threat, coaches and players respected his mental toughness, attitude and hard work. Injuries kept Duncan sidelined more than once, but his leadership led his team to championships.
In 2005, Duncan won his third NBA Finals MVP Award and joined Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson as the only players in NBA history to win it three times. Duncan can also be found on the list of most overall career blocks and has the most career postseason double-doubles in NBA history. Under coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan has won 1,001 games, which is the most ever for a player-coach duo.
Garnett, Bryant and Duncan were all huge staples in the NBA from the start. They were all-time leading scorers for their respective teams. Among them, they have 48 All-Star appearances, 11 NBA championships and three Olympic gold medals.
These men were feared competitors to anyone that stepped on the court to play against them. Resilience, dedication and mental toughness are all words used to describe them. They changed the game and deserve this honor. 2020 may end up being the best Hall of Fame class ever.
Photo: (Garrett Ellwood)