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Blog Entry

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:37 am
Edited on: August 6, 2010 11:46 am
 
Posted by Matt Moore

Kevin Garnett is one of the most respected players in the NBA, with good reason. No one has shown  more focus at both ends of the floor over the past decade than Kevin Garnett. Much of his trademarked intensity is show; the screaming, spitting, growling is revealed as little more than theatrics when you employ them as often as he has. But that doesn't change how he's constantly barking out defensive assignments, dressing down teammates, and blocking the ever-loving crap out of anyone that dares to challenge his authority (or dying trying). He's a 13-time All-Star, and has an MVP trophy, a Defensive Player of the Year trophy, and an NBA champion.

And with all that respect that he has earned comes a level of expectation, often unfair, mostly ridiculous, that he live up to what we believe is the model of a true NBA legend. Or at least, that's been the pattern for everyone except KG. And if you want proof of that, compare KG and LeBron James.

In 2010, LeBron James abandoned his team, the Cavaliers, and did it in a publicly humiliating and disgracefully opulent way on national television. Maybe you heard about it, here and there. Before we continue, let's be very clear on this point:

The primary reason for the backlash against James is the way in which he announced his decision ("The Decision"), the way he seemingly laughed and skipped out of town while the dreams he had given Cleveland fans burned to the ground. There is simply no way to defend or even deflect that criticism. You're not going to find anyone outside of South Beach who thinks this was in any way acceptable. KG has never behaved in such a way, nor did he embarrass Minnesota on the way out of town. The way the two left is simply not comparable. See, I put it in bold, just so we're all clear on this.

However, the secondary argument against James is that he has in some way compromised his legacy, lessened his greatness, by not being the sole elite player on his team. He is no longer considered able to reach the sport's summit because he has joined Dwyane Wade's team instead of building championship gold from the rubble he was drafted into. That by joining other elite players, he can no longer be considered elite.

Let's head on back to 2007.

Kevin Garnett has failed to reach the summit with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted him. Though there were a handful of very good teams, none of them even approached what you would call a "great" team. The Sam Cassell-Latrell Sprewell team rose and fell apart as fast as it came together, and Garnett has been losing consistently. It becomes known that he wants out, wants to be traded to a contender, does not want to waste his career any longer. He doesn't outright say he wants to be traded, after all, you're fined for such activity. But it's made pretty clear that his time with Minnesota is over. It's done. He winds up heading to Boston, joining Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the captain, to form the first modern Big 3 and first relative superteam since the Lakers' 2004 crime against nature.

(It should be noted that the Spurs' combination of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili definitely constituted enough talent as to be considered a superteam, but more perhaps more impressively, they did it organically. They came to have three superstars by developing the talent they drafted. Not by acquiring the gold when the market was high on it.)

But KG was and is the leader, right? Well, I don't know. Paul Pierce is the captain, right? And the guy taking the game winning shots, most often? The face of the team? It's heart and soul? Isn't Pierce the one most often relied upon to rally the team? While Garnett is undeniably a leader on the Celtics, is he really considered the leader?

Oddly, what led me down this line of thought was a quote from, of all people, Rasho Nesterovic.

In an interview with rtvslo.com , and translated and brought forth by Project Spurs , Nesterovic talks about the difference between Garnett and Duncan. He discusses how Duncan won with the team that drafted him, and how Garnett made the smart move, but it was one to turn to the Celtics, who already had a leader in Pierce. This all leads to Nesterovic saying Duncan was the greater power forward of his time.

Huh.

Now, this is Rasho Nesterovic. We're not talking Bill Russell here. But the idea is one that deserves consideration. Did KG join the Celtics as a leader, or did he simply do the exact same thing that LeBron James did, only under better PR cover? The argument can certainly be made that James joined in free agency (which is apparently worse than bailing on your team while under contract with them), while Garnett was traded, so it wasn't really his decision. But if Garnett had told Minnesota management, "I don't want to be traded. I either win here, or I don't win at all," do you really think the Wolves would have said "No, no, Mr. Hall-of-Fame-Most-Beloved-Player-In
-Franchise-History, we want no part of you here"? Is that what you think would have occurred? Because I'm pretty sure Kevin McHale would have just gone back to figuring out ways to build the Wolves around KG (and failing miserably).

The argument could also be made that KG was on a "loser" while James was on a contending team. But there are two responses to that. 1. While this Cavs team was certainly better than any KG had, James has also been superior in terms of production (and playoff success if we're being honest) than anything KG had been. I'm simply pointing out that if you're going to say the Cavs were better, you also have to point out that James was better, and was a reason for the Cavs being better. And 2, is there really a difference between contender-but-not-champion and loser in our society? I don't subscribe to this. I think there are tons of brilliant players that simply were never fortunate enough to run into the blessed set of circumstances you need to win a championship (or play for LA). But if you're a results oriented person, KG and James had accomplished the same thing, and so to say that one needed to do what he needed in order to win a ring and the other needed to continue to struggle is a bit ridiculous.

We come to the crux of this, which is actually not that KG deserves more criticism or scorn for leaving Minnesota to fall into the void. Far from it. Garnett recognized that he needed to win a ring before his time was up, that it wasn't going to happen in Minny, and that Boston represented the best chance for him. He took it. He doesn't deserve to be slagged for that. Garnett has told other players not to let what happened to him in Minnesota happen to them. Now, that particular action is a little less likable. After all, there have been players that stayed "home" and eventually reached the promised land, and those championships are much more special to their small markets than the umpteenth championship for a storied franchise. This is nothing to do with the quality of the fans and just the simple fact that a lone championship means more than one of many.

But Garnett is simply passionate about being the best he can be. And for him, that meant joining a team with an established star, a veteran leader, along with another veteran leader, and winning a championship. That was his path. And it is not all that dissimilar from LeBron James' path (in terms of the end result; remember, the bold clause! The bold clause!). So if we're going to criticize James for not being "the man," we need to similarly disparage Garnett, Pau Gasol, and other players that did what they needed to in order to win a ring.

Garnett is no villain. He loved Minnesota. But in the end, he felt his best chance for achieving that ring was in Boston, alongside other stars. Those facts coincide with LeBron James' actions of the past three months. Even if you feel that Garnett was able to be a leader alongside Paul Pierce (the most rational and likely conclusion), you should at least recognize the same dynamic's likelihood in Miami. You don't have to like how James pulled off this career correction. No one does. But to question his legacy opens up a Pandora's Box that is linked throughout some of the greatest players in the history of the league.

Don't throw stones. The halls of NBA greatness are built of glass.

Comments

Since: Jul 30, 2010
Posted on: August 9, 2010 12:50 am
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Matt Moore missed the real issue here with LeBron. LeBron is one of two guys (along with Kobe) who is the face of the NBA. When Garnett was in his youth, he was just another all-star in a league without a true superstar, outside of maybe Shaq. No player since Michael Jordan has been as impactful a player on the league's marketing spectrum as LeBron. KG was never drawing comparisons to MJ that he had to live up to to earn his legacy. Plus, it was pointed out the KG was on a "loser." Hell, minus the history with KG, the T-Wolves are the worst franchise in the history of the league. KG gave it a shot at winning with his draft day team. He had a chance to leave at one point or another and decided to stick around for 12 years. LeBron left in his prime, while he was the most marketable player in the game and one of the most well-known athletes in the world. If KG had ever reached the status that LeBron held before the trade (and will likely continue to hold after it), it would have been a big deal when he left. But he never was that global icon, and Garnett will never be considered a "loser" or a "back-stabber" because he is one player whose effort will never be question, a guy who was never known to shy away in big games. The media is the people who have driven the whole fuss over LeBron, from publishing articles about the "Summer of LeBron" back in 2008 to allowing LeBron to make his stupid "Decision" on ESPN. The media took KG's side and not LeBron's. The NBA should also be mad about LeBron because they lost a marketable franchise in the Cavaliers. The Heat were already a solid team. When Garnett went to the Celtics it made one of the two most well-known franchises in the league, a sudden power once again. It was a revival of a great franchise and a great rivalry, not a lost market. The lost merchandise from Minnesota becoming totally irrelevant was nothing compared to what they gained from the Celtic regaining relevancy. I'm not saying the LeBron won't win a title because he probably will. I'm not saying it will be a bad thing for the league in the long run if the Heat can make the finals every year with two of the league's most marketed players. What I am saying is that LeBron had the legacy of the other 23 to live up to and KG did not. LeBron still had to prove himself in the minds of many, KG did not. LeBron was a global marketing icon, and KG was not. And those are the real reasons why the situation KG was in was not even comparable to that of LeBron.



Since: Mar 18, 2009
Posted on: August 8, 2010 10:33 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Obviously this guy hasn't been watching the NBA for the last 5+ years.  KG and Lebron's situations are totally different.  KG, even though he appears to be a colossal moron (ex:his "anything is possible rant" from the title year) was surrounded by a cast of people who somehow were bigger morons than him.  The Twolves as an organization are horrible.  Granted the Cavs aren't much better, but the Twolves weren't going out and getting Shaq, Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams or any free agents or traded players that were worth anything to help KG in Minnesota.  The Cavs did that for Lebron, even if they were poor choices of players.  But guess who was signing off on all the poor player acquisitions?  Lebron, and everybody knows it.  The difference between KG and Lebron is that KG recognized a franchise that could win for him, Lebron on the other hand recognized a franchise that couldn't win partly because of him so he cut and ran.  Big difference. 



Since: Aug 8, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 10:31 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

It is ridiculous to try to defend LeBron by saying that he got traded too. Any reasonable trade assumes that both parties feel that they are benifiting somewhat equally. Lets put it in Monopoly terms, what LeBron did was like somebody saying I don't feel like playing anymore so I'll sell my friend DWade all my properties for a dollar. That might be your idea of a trade "technically," but nobody would think it was fair and all the other players or in this case fans would be entitled to hold somebody who did something like that in contempt.



Since: Aug 8, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 10:09 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

There are giganticnormous differences between KG and James.  Cleveland's ownership and front office were really trying to get James players to put him on the road to win a champiionship, and they were spending the money.  It does not mean that they were getting him the right players, but as the NEW FACE OF THE LEAGUE James should have found a way to win games and to demand his teamates' best effort. That brings me to my next point, James is not a leader, he is a very talented palyer but does not have leadership skills of Kobe, Shaq, Wade, Jordan , and many others.  But like with many leaders it takes time to develop those skills and James is not there yet.  The problem now is that James will not develop the leadership skills because Wade is the leader of the Heat.  James is now a situational leader and 2nd or 3rd or even 4th in command in Miami.  KG was a leader in MN and became the player that we know thanks to his leadership and hard work.  James and KG play different positions, James has the ball in his hands and controls almost every offensive possession, KG has to work hard to get open and then has to wait for his teametes to find him.  James has better numbers than KG because James is more in contact with the ball and has more control of what happens, James is suppossed to make his team better because the position that he plays, KG is suppossed to be a dominant force in his position but he depends on others to get the ball to him.  KG went to Boston because the Timberwolves were not bringing him the talent needed to win, all the loosing and disappointment in MN kind of earned KG the right to find happyness somewhere else. KG paid his dues and gaveit his best shot in MN to be a winner.  James went to Miami because he is afraid to take the team on his back, I do not think he has done enought to earn the right to go somewhere else to win a championship.  Many players have gone to other teams to look for a championship, but usually they have been in the league for a very long time, examples are Karl Malone (I know he did not win), Gary Payton, Barkley, Drexler, and many more.
The bottom line in my opinion is that KG gave Minnesota his best and went about the business of basketball in a professional way, and I have never seen KG stop playing hard or give up.  James was not straight forward with Cleveland and used his free agent status just as an entertainment tool (dont get me wrong here, I think it was great publicity and the NBA depends on any kind of publicity because its product is not that great).  And finally I do not know if James had planned to leave Cleveland while he was still playing for them, but I saw him give up, stop playing hard, and play unsmart basketball many times when they lost games.  



Since: Jul 28, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 9:00 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Come on the only thing being said about Lebron besides the fact that he is a Rat  (the espn show proved that)  is that he will never be compared to Jordan , Magic , Bird , Russell or even in Doctor J's  class and neither is KG for that matter although KG  does have Class 


No Matter what he does from Now on he will never be considered one of the Elite players to ever play the game



Since: Jul 28, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 8:53 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Garnett , was traded as so was Ray Allen to Boston totally different  ,

This article proves that some people should dip too close to their Jean Pool   hehe




Since: Jun 2, 2009
Posted on: August 8, 2010 8:42 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Hahahahahahahaha.  The fact writers are comparing LeBron to KG is hilarious.  This shows how far Mrs. Wade has fallen





Since: Dec 15, 2007
Posted on: August 8, 2010 8:35 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

AzCleve,

Where are you getting your info?  They just went to the Finals.  Any player who wants to win a ring knows they need just one year with LBJ and they have a great shot at winning it all.  Why are you calling him Mrs. Wade?  Wade may be in Miami first, but LBJ is the alpha dog.  No sane person can tell me Wade is a better player than LBJ especially now that Wade is injury prone.  After the first year, this becomes LBJ's team.  If Wade gets hurt again banging into bodies in the lane, it will happen sooner.  I'm concerned that LBJ and Bosh turn Wade into a jump shooter. 

I can't believe you are calling Bosh a HOFer.  That guy got max money based on potential not results.  What has he done or won?  His records are with the lowly Rapters who barely made it to the playoffs while he was there.  Inflated numbers on a mediocre team.  He is building a nice career so far.  Still not elite yet.  Now his numbers are going to go down.  Not sure you make the HOF as the third best player on your team unless you win a bunch of rings. 

LBJ won't win as many as Jordan, but this feels like the 90s Bulls.  Wade becomes the next Pippen and Bosh becomes the next Rodman.  Let's not forget Wade won his ring before he was elite.  Shaq carried that team.  Wade hasn't won one since.  Not even close.



Since: Aug 24, 2009
Posted on: August 8, 2010 8:29 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

WRONG!

These are 2 completely different situations. KG wasnt considered the best player in the league and was on the tail-end of his career. He joined 2 other players that had never won anything. KG tried for over 10 years and things werent gonna get any better in Minnesota.

Lebron James is in the prime of his career and is considered one of the top 2 players in the NBA. He joined Dwayne Wade's, an NBA Finals MVP, team. James bailed when is team had the best record in the NBA and was only a couple pieces away.



Since: Aug 3, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 7:32 pm
 

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Exactly.U now have 3 twenty something HOFers on one team.  Garnett did tell everyone who would lister that I am the King, I am the naser for cleveland.  Garnett did not spend for years making sure the Cavs could not sign a Top FA.  Every FA that talked to the Cavs wanted some asurances from Mrs Wade that he was staying. As we all know, none were given. So they moved on.  Mrs Wade's refusal to give any assurances,  that he'd stay, limited the Cavs ability to build the roster to plpayers that were be shopped.  And Clearly the talent offered in that manner, either not the talented, or has extreme baggage.  Don't get me started!.  Mrs. Wade's destruction of the Cavs, eliminates all the goodwill we had for him. And by the way, this 3 superstar on 4 or 5 teams will injure the NBA.  Might make your job better, but except in Mrs Wade's world it is not all about you.

Regards



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com