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: Jan 21, 2009
Posted on: August 7, 2010 12:26 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

The guys on this board are is pretty simple

Hes a Douche for "The Decision" which was an hour long fu to the city of Cleveland.
Hes a Douche for giving up in the playoffs

Outside of that, you cant blame the guy for going wherever he wants to go play as a free agent (later a sign and trade)

When it comes down do it, I just dont think hes that bright.  Hes got his boys running his career for him, but this aint Entourage this is real mf'n life.  From what Ive seen, he may have a high baskebtball IQ but he definitely has a low IQ.  Id hate to see how much money "Team Lebron" has skimmed off the top over all of these years. 

Cant wait for this all to just go away and let all these dumb asses get out theree and play hoops.  That is what they are still paid to do right?

Since: Aug 7, 2010
Posted on: August 7, 2010 12:22 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

News Flash! Check The History books only one guy(Tim Duncan)has ever won multiple rings without the help of another bonafied hall-o-famer. And by the way there's no such thing as a guaranteed ring...

Since: Aug 17, 2008
Posted on: August 7, 2010 12:20 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Lame article, as others have probably stated Garnett was traded to the Celtics and didn't choose to go there. Ray Allen was not there yet as of the Garnett trade either, as he was traded from Seattle at the 2007 draft. 
Boston also received something in return as it was a trade meaning an exchange back and forth. Duh?
 How do people get articles like this published? Lebron walked on his own and cared less if Cleveland received anything in return. 
Lebron is 25 years old and still had a chance to carry and lead a team in his prime. Dumb article please pull off the presses so more people won't get bad information from this writer. 

Since: Mar 8, 2008
Posted on: August 7, 2010 12:17 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

the difference between lebron and kg is kg did everything he could for that organization and played hard every game.He discussed his dission with the organization.Lebron quite on the team during the playoff when they had an opportunity to move on.He planned the move ahead of time and wasn't man enough to talk to his teams about what he was gonna do.My biggest thing is he quite on his team.

Since: Aug 7, 2010
Posted on: August 7, 2010 12:15 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

What Proof does anyone have that LeBron has ever taken any plays off??? Last time I checked you only became a star player from true dedication to the game and hard work. Do you really think any superstar let alone future hall-o-famer is going to quit like that?(Well other than Kobe) And second dont guys like Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady always appear like their not trying? From an expression standpoint? Yeah I believe they do...

Since: May 2, 2010
Posted on: August 7, 2010 9:51 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Well I do not want to defend LeBron James, hate the guy-always have, but technically he was "traded" too, just to a team of his choosing when he said he would not resign with Cleveland anyway.  My previous post was in reply to ths 2nd response on this thread.

Since: May 2, 2010
Posted on: August 7, 2010 9:49 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Are you kidding me? Lebron was traded? This has been the 'summer of Lebron' for like 4 years now. You know, the summer that about 10 teams were aligning their rosters in the hopes of signing "FREE AGENT" Lebron James.

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: August 7, 2010 9:32 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG


Good Lord. Do you do ANY research before you write an article? Garnett reiterated over and over again that he wanted to end his career in Minnesota. As a matter of fact, when the front office started shopping him in the summer of '07, Garnett begged them for a contract extension, but the Timberwolves felt it was best to go separate ways.

LeBron was a free agent and willfully chose to leave Cleveland; Garnett did no such thing. He was traded AGAINST his will and despite his protests to remain a Timberwolf.

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: August 7, 2010 8:08 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Normally I am not critical of CBS writers, having said that this article was not very well thought out at all. Seems Mr. Moore was just writing for the sake of writing, or to stir the pot so to speak. First of all you cannot possibly compare KG with LBJ, they are two entirely different players. Comparing a PG to a PF is akin to comparing apples and oranges. One has the ball in his hands creating for himself and teamates, the other is reliant on his teamates to get him the ball in a position for him to score. Lets not forget that KG also went to the Celtics at the tail end of his career, to join two allstars who had also grown long in the teeth. LBJ is in his prime, and has joined up with two other players in their prime, their is just no comparisson here. Spin it as much as you would like, this was simply a matter of a supposed Superstar realizing he is not as good as he has been led to believe his entire career. The Cleveland Cavaliers did everything they could to put a team around him, and he still couldn't produce. So as the saying goes, when the going got tough, LBJ got going, to another team that is.

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: August 7, 2010 2:02 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

I posted my last comment before reading the article but this is something I could have mentioned without reading the article. Single biggest difference between Lebron and KG: James is labeled as "The King" and as the best ever so I asked myself these questions: Would the best ever player feel the need to construct a media circus around themselves to build his image? Would the best player ever be able to attract players to play with him? Can the best player ever have a legacy of failure? The answers to these questions are No, Yes, and No. Lebron is a loser and I am sick and tired of hearing how he's the greatest ever when he put on a display of selfishness the likes of which haven't been seen in sports in some time.

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