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 , 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.


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.


Since: Dec 28, 2009
Posted on: August 8, 2010 9:55 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

I would fully expect a LeBron apologist from the ilk at ESPN. but not here at CBSsportsline. Now let set the record straight. The departures of LeBron James and Kevin Garnett from thier respectie first teams are nothing alike. That would be akin to saying Hitler and Obama are th same. They are both "left" after all.

LeBron James is an A$$ in the minds of most fair minded people for two reasons. 1) The way he decided to make his "decision" was arrogant and childish, befit for a man of little to no self esteem or respect for the game or those who have supported him for the past seven years. 2) Le Bron left his own people, his own flesh and blood, the people he grew up with for a "chance at a ring". The last being a dubious statement at best as most people think he left so he could play with his friends, loyalty be damned. The situation with KG was nothing like this. He didnt make a fool of himself or burn any bridges on his way out of Minnesota. He wasnt born and raised in Minnesota either, so there wasnt the emotional ties to the area like in the Le Bron Situation.

The bottom line is Le Bron is a coward without even a shred of self respect, loyalty, or honor. He left so that he could make headlines. Sort of like the writer of this story comparing KG to LeBron. It was simply done for a headline and is based on false logic and contempt for his readers.

Since: Aug 8, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 9:52 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Think about this - Read, Frazier and Monroe; all of them were named top 50 NBA Players. What about Wilt,, West and Baylor again, all of them top 50 players. Of course you already mentioned Boston's top three, but let's take a look at Magic's Lakers - Magic, Jabbar and McAdoo who came off the bench but had a much more storied carreer than Chris Bosh. McAdoo was a former MVP and led the NBA in scoring a couple of times and was still in his prime while with the Lakers. ANd what about Kobe, Payton, Malone and Shaq? The point is many NBA teams had big 3s and not all of them won chanpionships. Why on earth are we making such a big deal about the Heat? Jordan, Pippin and Rodman - who would not want them in their prime? What about Boston's Bird, McHale, the Chief and Archibald all top 50 players and don't forget the Championship MVP for that team, NBA All Star Cornbread Maxwell. There are other teams I could name but my point is King James is not the first player to do this and in the long run, a great player as we will still get his due.

Since: Jun 29, 2007
Posted on: August 8, 2010 8:10 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

     This article is retarded.  You can not compare KG to LeDump.  LeDump had the best record in the NBA at least one season and the best in the east for at least two.  He couldn't get it done in the playoffs so he runs away to Miami.  KG didn't have very good teams in Minnesota, they didn't even make it to the playoffs for many seasons so he goes to Boston to win a title.  Horrible writing and anyone who agrees with this article is an idiot.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: August 8, 2010 7:26 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Exactly.  Shaq is about the closest thing.  Shaq was only there 4 years though and honestly, who wouldn't want to get out of the east during that time?  Jordan was back and there seemingly was no end in sight for the dominance of the Bulls.  At least someone in the west had a chance at making the finals.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: August 8, 2010 6:56 am

Silly comparison

Since: Jan 1, 2009
Posted on: August 8, 2010 6:32 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Wow the only thing different thing was P.R. for James. Is this a joke? I remember that alot of people questioned if K.G. could stay healthy. Boston gave up alot to get him. Did K.G. say pay me millions less so I can join Ray and Paul? Most people said that Boston was crazy cause K.G. at most said he had 2-3 top years in him. Ray and paul are top players but are they equal to Wade and chris? I would have to say 20% lower age does weigh a factor as well. Plus Rondo isnt the player then that he is at  this point. Yes they won the championship. then the next year K.G. wasnt in the finals and couldnt get it done. This year they almost took the lakers the difference was K.G. was in the game. Plus Rondo had alot to do with this years finals. He is their future star.

James went "HOLLYWOOD" forgot about win and lose as a team. They suck Im the King. IF I Win this year and hit the finals I cant leave. So Ill just give up and get with my friends.Thats what most Cavs fans believe how James was thinking.He has totally lost his place in history as fans will look at him for how he handled himself. No more next Jordan,Kobe. talks of him best on the court. Yea is is one of the best in the last 7 years no question. How can he say he couldnt do more to make the cavs better. He didnt have to they had the best record in the N.B.A!!! I seen a huge change in him playoff time he turned the ball over so many times. Take bad shots. then sit out for a bit.It was sad!

So to try and put some spin on this to make james only mistake was p.r. as to the K.G. trade is just crazy. K.g. was on contract got traded plain and simple. They could of kept him!!! James free agent!!! K.G has class respects his team HIS FANS and the city. James is about being a low class i need the spot light on me quiter. he wants to be known like michael jackson all over the world. Well with the stunt most hate you know and have turned on you like Jackson. Great move shal we call you the "king" of POP now? lebron jackson sounds about right now!!!  


Since: Apr 20, 2010
Posted on: August 8, 2010 12:39 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Simply put. we have never seen anything like this in sports.The New York Yankees.Now you get ranover by a bus.

Since: Oct 27, 2006
Posted on: August 8, 2010 12:37 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

well congratulations Matt Moore u r the first moronic cbs sportswriter(that i know of) to write a story saying garnett did the same thing as lebron...that makes u dumber than gary parrish and mike freeman!!! here r several reason that make this argument just plain DUMB!!!

1) Garnet wasted away in minnesota for 12 years, lebron bailed after 7. He could've signed an extension and after that was done still only been 30/31 and then couldve jumped ship and noone wouldve batted an eye!!!

2)Garnett, Allen and Pierce were not good friends and did not meet at Paul Pierces house in the summer to talk. It was not planned in any way shape or form by the 3 of them to team up on the same team, so it happened alot more "naturally" in Boston. the way Bosh, James and Wade ended up on the same team just reeks of collusion on the part of the players. even go back to when they ALL signed shorter deals so they would ALL be free agents together...they were planning this for years!!!

3)Garnett, Allen and Pierce were all veterans who had sacrificed everything for many years in pursuit of championship. they were all "past" their prime in their careers and hoping for ONE shot at a ring!!! James(26yrs old) is the reigning NBA MVP in the prime of his career, Bosh is also 26 and in the prime of his career, and Wade the old man of the group is a whopping 28 and already has a ring!!! so again this is totally a different scenario than garnetts. The Heat 3 are hoping to dominate for many years and anything less than 3 titles in the 6yr contract period has to be considered a "failure". basically they want to horde the championship and if i was a player on any other team id be pissed!!!

4) Gasol...r u serious??? Gasol??? Gasol was a very good player and developed into what we see today playing with kobe and for Jackson. plus he got traded so there goes ur theory on that one.

in summary i know sports reporting is very subjective and alot of it is just opinion but why does Matt Moore get paid(well probably) to spout out this utter garbage??? he's not the only one as I wonder whether Pete Prisco even watches NFL or if Wes Goldstein is accidentally watching filed hockey instead of ice hockey, but this is just pure crap!!!

Since: Aug 12, 2008
Posted on: August 8, 2010 12:00 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Good article. Am a Celts fan. Kg didnt come off back to back 60 win seasons though.

Since: Aug 3, 2010
Posted on: August 7, 2010 11:14 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

 They both have outstanding leadership qualities, for that's what they both have done since they have been in the league, and that was lead, however they r tadition breakers, they didn't acheive the old fashion way by stayn on one team way past your prime. The talent level that was established while they played for their old teams was mediocre at best, a few playoff wins here n there. So y ridicule them for taking a smarter route of acheiving success? Wait, but it's okay to load up with a proven franchise that is good at recruiting, like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, but no way can u do this in Miami. I think this was a brilliant move by the ex Laker, Knicks, and Miami Heat coach, but nw he is the GM, a good one I must add. All of his teams were stacked! Everyone knew their roles. They will win, while naysayers likes Charles Barkley feels his Lebron's rep will be tarnished, and this is the same guy who joined forces with Akeem, and Scottie Pippen, but he was to old and out of shape to compete for the ring, but it was cool for Clyde the Glide to join forces and win.....C'mon stop hating the players for breaking tradition, this was all Pat Riley, the boss!

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