Kevin Garnett: “Michael Jordan changed my life, I’ll tell you how”

KG remembers the match with MJ and Pippen in which he felt for the first time an NBA player: “I will always be grateful to Michael …”

On a spring 1995 afternoon in Chicago, the life and career of a very young Kevin Garnett changes forever. Thanks to Michael Jordan, an improvised match to the death (but not too much) and a breathtaking duel with Scottie Pippen. Thanks to Isiah Thomas, present on the sidelines to illuminate KG’s destiny and help him in the most important choice of all: “It was a memorable day, of enormous impact, that changed my life and that I will never forget”. This is the story of that afternoon that probably gave Kevin Garnett to the history of world basketball.

talent

Kevin Garnett has just won the MVP award of the legendary Mc Donald’s All-American Game, the annual event in which the best talents of the American high schools compete against each other. KG, in that spring of 1995 player of the Farragut Academy in Chicago together with Ronnie Fields, idol and great promise of the Windy City, closed the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 rebounds in 22 ‘of pure basketball domination. A monstrous performance, in some ways unrepeatable, which today is not surprising in light of the legendary NBA career of the native of Greenville, South Carolina, culminating with the MVP award won in 2004 with the Minnesota Timberwolves jersey and the title won in 2008 with Boston Celtics, and indelibly defined by the recent entry into the Hall of Fame. Contrary to what one might imagine, the following weeks at Mc Donald’s All American turned out to be very complicated for Garnett, who soon found himself completely broke, with an eviction notice stuck on the door of his Chicago home and forced to metabolize the yet another rejection of the tests to enter university. Failing that exam means not being able to enroll in any college and consequently not being able to accept the numerous scholarship offers received, particularly those from Michigan, Maryland and North Carolina. The very day Kevin learns that the test failed, his story changes forever, in the most extraordinary and unexpected way possible. Together with a friend, Garnett decides to go to a training session of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, who has recently returned to the NBA after his first retirement and stint in the baseball minors, and Scottie Pippen.

the match

KG shows up in the bright and glitzy gym at the Hilton in downtown Chicago, where the Bulls are training, and as soon as he arrives he is immediately confronted with the two legends. Garnett recounts in his autobiography KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of life, basketball, and everything in between: “When we walk in through a side door, Mike Jordan is there. Scottie Pippen is there. We watch them face off in a couple of matches. I observe them carefully, I study them. I was focused like a son of a … After an hour, a security man yells at me. He waves his arms, gestures towards me. ‘Hey you!’ He shouts from afar. ‘Are you saying to me?’, ‘Yes, you big boy, come here!’ “. Garnett, spotted on the sidelines by Michael Jordan – who he knew was a promising youngster – is invited to join the training. The first to provocatively address him is Pippen: “You’re too young to play with us, you’re just a high school kid”. Then it’s up to MJ to turn to the young KG. He points it with his finger and without too many words tells him exactly what he wants from him: “You mark Scottie”. Garnett obeys without batting an eye because competition is in his DNA but, above all, he craves Jordan’s approval. KG defends as if that were the most important game of his life – and in a sense it is – and in attack he gains confidence in possession after possession. When the first baskets begin to enter, Pippen changes his attitude and begins to apostrophize the young Garnett with a trash talking aggressive, while Jordan appears pleased with the situation. KG’s fire burns like never before: “I wasn’t going to take a step back. Nobody makes fun of me. I was competitive like these sons of p … I play against Scottie up close, hard. I’m on him, an inch from his face. I play as if every moment of my life has brought me up to that moment. Scottie may also be Scottie but now he’s just an opponent to beat. I’m on fire “. Garnett impresses everyone present, including MJ, and leaves the floor leaving Pippen to be devoured alive by anger.

isiah

Waiting on the sidelines Garnett, however, is no longer his friend, but one of the most exciting and important players in the history of the city of Chicago: Isiah Thomas. Raised on the West Side of the Windy City and retired from the NBA for just over a year due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, Thomas accidentally finds himself in training for the Bulls and is blown away by KG’s technical quality and defensive mentality. He knows his personal history – minus his financial woes – and he knows Kevin won’t be able to go to college next season. The words Thomas speaks to Garnett shortly after crossing him will give the young talent who grew up in Mauldin, South Carolina, the knowledge to try something unthinkable: go straight from high school to the NBA. The dialogue between the two goes something like this: “Kevin, you just faced Scottie Pippen, the best player in the league right now. You could be playing in the NBA right now, ”Isiah exclaims. “What did you say ?!” asks Garnett, who isn’t sure he understood the words of the Detroit Pistons legend. “Boy, you could play in the NBA even now. What do you say? Do you feel ready? ”, Urges Thomas. First the match with MJ and Pippen and then this meaningful exchange with Isiah Thomas represent the exact moment in which Garnett finds the confidence within himself to declare himself eligible for the 1995 Draft and change his career and NBA basketball history.

the choice

At 18, going against prejudices and preconceptions. Without conscience but with a confidence in his own means and an unrivaled impudence even for a veteran. “Thanks again to Michael Jordan for letting me participate in that game and having that experience and, even more, Isiah Thomas for being there, talking to me on another level and helping me make the decision to drop out of high school. for the NBA ”, Garnett a Complex. And all of us fans join in the heartfelt thanks of KG, priceless gem, diamond in the rough of basketball and keeper of unspeakable basketball marvels. Without him, the NBA is no longer the same.

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Kevin Garnett: “Michael Jordan changed my life, I’ll tell you how”

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