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: Aug 7, 2010
Posted on: August 7, 2010 1:18 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Wowowowowow. This guy obviously doesn't know shit. Its different leaving your team at the end of your career to win a championship with two other guys trying to do the same than leaving during your prime to join to other superstars in their primes. KG spent his whole prime in Minnesota and did everything he could to win a championship. Lebron is just getting to his prime, quit on his team in the postseason, and pussied out by joining one of the top 3 players in the NBA and an allstar big man. Lebron is a bitch.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: August 7, 2010 1:06 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Garnett was traded and he was 30 something when he realized he couldn't do it alone..and what did Gasol do? he was traded also it's different than making a"decision to bolt where you have a free hand in choosing which team you play for..

Lebron was also traded...  the biggest difference was Lebron making it public. As far as I'm concerned, that was a good thing him Bosh Wade and Johnson... oh as well as Amare. They brought more interest in the NBA that hasn't been there in a long time. Is he disliked? Sure, I haven't been the biggest Lebron supporter out there, but the fact is that the NBA has people who were just casual fans who knew of the best players interested more then ever. KG was the best player on his team in the Wolves, and was the best player on the Celtics career wise... but he wasn't their leader, he made that "sacrifice" to win it all. Lebron is doing the same, except he did it with more excitement and is sacrificing more. He is the "bad guy" to almost all fan bases, especially Cav's, Knicks, Bulls, and LA fan bases... only time will tell if he has the success like Garnett and gets a championship... but if he does I'd say he would feel it was worth it.

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: August 7, 2010 12:28 am

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

To say noone wanted to go to Cleveland is completely ignorant.  Lebron did more recruiting for Miami in the minutes after the decision than his entire tenure in Cleveland.  He couldn't give Trevor Ariza a commitment because he knew he was going to Miami.  It amazes me how obvious this is now and how we all missed it.  He announced jersey changes in Miami, discussions of Wade and Bosh meeting with him before free agency started, and all three signing the same deal three years ago.  What is too bad is that if Lebron recruited players to that "bad" team in Cleveland (you know the one that won 60 games twice) he may already have a couple rings and the start of a legacy.  Instead he will be the guy who came to help Dwayne Wade, and if you think those egos won't cause problems, we will see.  They will win games, but the fuse is lit and it is only Lebron quitting on a series or Wade and Bosh staying on the injured reserve too long before that blows up.

Since: Aug 6, 2010
Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:55 pm
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Since: Aug 17, 2009
Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:45 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

  KG gave Minnesota 10 years to put a winning team on the court. Labron gave Cleveland 4 or 5. KG
resigned with Minn. at one point, Lebron left the first chance he hsd when Cleveland was trying to put
a winner together. How long did it take Jordan just to make the playoffs?
  What amazes me about this situation is that it appears that Wade did the selling of Miami, not Pat
Riley. When Lebron made his announcement, what did he say? He did not mention Miami, his words
were"I'm taking my talents to South Beach."Remember that James went to the pros right out of high
school, meaning that while he played basketball, he also missed out on some crucial years growing up.
There is a very real poissibility that we have seen the best of Lebron. It seems like the new 3 amigos,
Wade, Bosh, and James, have women and partying on their mind more than basketball. If I am right
in that assessment, it will make for some long years in Miami.

Since: Oct 31, 2009
Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:40 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Not only  that, but there was some kind of backroom deal by ex celtics great Mchale to get KG to Boston.

Since: Aug 6, 2010
Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:39 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 4, 2008
Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:27 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

KGs move is totally different, KG is at the twilight of his career; he has tried his best to take the Timberpuppies to the Championship.  After doing all he could he finally is willing to go a team where can may be able to win one.  When he went to Boston, the Celtics weren't in contention, but with KG and Ray Allen who is no longer at his prime join with Paul Pierce and the rest of the team to win.  There was no summit, there was not 3 three and some mininum salary folks to fill the roster.  This is not a double standard and totally a different situation.

Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:00 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

It's not a double standard, it's evidence of what happens when you are an a-hole about things.

LBJ's negative press was well, well deserved.  Next MJ?  You must be joking.  MJ's early Chicago teams SUCKED and he stood by them, back then you couldn't assemble teams on the fly so you were stuck with who u have.  Sans MJ, those mid-80's Chicago teams wouldn't have got 10 wins.  S***, it wasn't until year 4 when they broke .500

KG and the T Wolves seemed to part on good terms.  The comparison to LBJ is weak at best, apples to oranges is probably more likely.

Since: Apr 3, 2009
Posted on: August 6, 2010 10:55 pm

Of leadership, LeBron, and KG

Virtually the same? You have no business being a sports writer if you think such foolishness. 

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