On the eve of being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, NBA champion Kevin Garnett reflected upon his illustrious career during a press conference where he touched on everything from his relationship with late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, to his appreciation of the Minnesota Timberwolves for taking a chance on him and drafting him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.
"You come into the NBA wanting to win, and losing is part of it. But that doesn't mean you have to accept it. Getting with a storied franchise like Boston, gave me light, gave me breath, gave me purpose. And the players that you're playing with actually make the experience monumental, made it magical. The city is -- the city was waiting for something big or for something different to happen versus where it was, and when we went we just never looked back. The fanbase in Boston was over the top. People following you home, people standing outside your gate when you get home, people wanting to pump your gas. The fan level in Boston was just another level, but I learned to embrace it. My only regret in any of this is that I should have came to Boston a little earlier, other than that it was magical."
This isn't the first time Garnett said he wished he joined the Celtics earlier, though. Just last year, the 15-time All-Star said he would've changed the situation earlier after all the years of minimal success in Minnesota.
"If I could actually go back and change anything, I would've left Minnesota a little earlier, knowing that the management wasn't as committed as I was. Or wasn't committed at all," Garnett said via The Athletic. "I probably would've went to Boston or changed the situation earlier. I would've been a little younger and that means less wear and tear on the body. Teaming up with Paul (Pierce), I should've done that earlier. Who knows — I'm probably sitting here with another ring or two. But, yeah."
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It is true that there were many spectacular years Garnett spent in Minnesota that were essentially wasted on a Timberwolves team that could never build a contender around their dominant big man. The Timberwolves were bounced from the first round of the playoffs seven straight years during Garnett's time with the team. The year that he won league MVP during the 2003-04 season, Minnesota made it all the way to the Western Conference finals and lost in six games to the Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal Lakers.
That was the peak of the Timberwolves' success, as the following three seasons after that -- which ended up being Garnett's final three years with the franchise -- they failed to make the playoffs altogether. Following the end of the 2006-07 season, Garnett was traded to the Celtics in a blockbuster deal, completing Boston's plan to pair franchise centerpiece Paul Pierce with two other stars in the league. Boston traded for Ray Allen on draft night in 2007, which got the ball rolling to create a Big Three on the Celtics, and then made the final move to get Garnett to complete their plan.
Boston went on to win the championship in the first year of the Pierce-Garnett-Allen era, and would continue to be championship contenders for the next several years. However, as Garnett previously said, he joined Boston when he was 30 years old, and while he wasn't necessarily past his prime just yet, he entered the league as a 19-year-old who had now racked up plenty of mileage on his body. Perhaps if he was traded earlier in his prime, like after the year he won MVP and realized he couldn't win a championship with Minnesota, he very well could have multiple titles to his name.
Whatever the path would've been, it would've ended up in the same place with Garnett being inducted into the Hall of Fame, that's just how dominant he was.