By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
My favorite Kevin Garnett moment – a moment that encapsulated his greatness, grit and gregariousness all in one play – came in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Lakers.
It was late in the first half and the Celtics were up 18 and on the verge of capturing their first championship in 22 years. Garnett screened for Paul Pierce and slipped to the basket. He caught a bounce pass from Pierce, hoisted the ball high above his head and rose into the air.
He nestled the ball in his mighty right paw, like a mother bear caressing her child, holding on to it like it was the most important possession in the world. Garnett double-clutched before flinging a one-handed slingshot that ricocheted off the backboard and fell through the net. He plummeted to the floor, screamed and pumped his fist as his teammates mobbed him.
That was the moment you sensed the dream was complete. You knew he wasn’t going to let the Celtics lose. You knew Garnett was going to get his championship and the Celtics were going to get theirs.
Garnett, who retired last week and is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, was the ultimate competitor, sweater, trash talker, swearer, instigator and teammate. He was the guy you hated when he was on the other team but loved when he was on your team. He had a knack for being annoying and it worked, and he was loyal like no other.
He was part of the Big Three in Boston with Pierce and Ray Allen and now he’s a member of another tremendous trio that has etched its spot in history. Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Garnett all retired this year, and they now make up arguably the best Hall of Fame class of all time.
All three did it in different ways. Duncan was the silent assassin – the unassuming leader who took you under his wing. Bryant was the not-so-silent assassin – the alpha dog who thrived in the clutch. Garnett was a mix of the two. He had Duncan-like tendencies when it came to leadership and banking in mid-range jumpers. He had some Kobe in him when it came to the snarl he gave opponents and the swagger he played with, letting them know right away he was better than they were and he was going to win.
When Garnett came to Boston and teamed up with Pierce and Allen, all three players had several individual accolades but had yet to win a title. That Celtics team epitomizes how basketball truly is a team sport. All three players took on a lesser role for the greater good and Garnett became the fire and fuel behind it all.
I doubt he ever needed to spend time in a sauna, because he removed gallons of sweat from his body every game. I doubt he ever ran out of swears, because his arsenal of profanity was seemingly endless. And I doubt he ever had a fully healthy chest, because he pounded it so many times while imploring the crowd to match his energy.
He coined the phrase “Anything is possible!” He had plenty of enemies, but his friends became family. He embraced Boston, made it his own and made it better.
Kevin Garnett may be retired, but his place in Boston lore will remain forever.