Kevin Garnett's greatest impact? Elevating everything - and everyone - around him

Kevin Garnett's greatest impact? Elevating everything - and everyone - around him

When it comes to Kevin Garnett, statistically speaking, he’s one of the best of our generation and a no-brainer to go into the Naismith Hall of Fame on his first shot at basketball immortality.

But my fondest memories of him have little to do with the 2008 NBA title in Boston or the menacing scowl all opponents were greeted with every game, or even the intensity that he played with every second he was on the floor. 

When I think of Kevin Garnett, I think of how he elevated everything and everyone around him and cared for those around him more than he often let on. 

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Rookies soon found out the guy who was kicking their ass in practice and cussing them out when they didn’t listen is the same dude who would buy them suits at the start of the season because he wanted them to not only learn how to be pros but also look like it.

“He did a lot of good things that people didn’t know,” former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on more than one occasion. “When rookies came in, he would bring them up to my office. He’d sit them down, and then he would bring his tailor in and say, ‘If you want to be a pro, you’ve got to dress like a pro.’ And he would buy each rookie two suits, and he did it every year. To me, that says a lot about Kevin Garnett as a teammate.” 

One of my first encounters with Kevin Garnett came in the early 2000s when he was in Minnesota and I was in Detroit covering the Detroit Pistons. 

Joe Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick and at that time one of KG’s best friends, was returning to Minnesota after a one-year stint in Detroit. So, naturally, the three of us reporters traveling with the team were waiting in the locker room to talk with Smith at the team’s morning shoot-around. 

Out of nowhere, KG came in, nodded to us before saying, “I’ll be with you guys in a minute.” And we were like, ‘uh … OK.”

He must have spent 15 minutes talking to us about his relationship with Joe Smith, the importance of friendship and trust and family, respect for the game … it all made sense to me at that moment. If you are a competitor, there is no better teammate in the world than Kevin Garnett. 

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“He’s the best, man,” Chauncey Billups, a former Celtic and Piston and — maybe most important — good friend of KG’s, told me back then. “He’s a great player. Everybody knows that. But as a teammate? They don’t come any better than KG.”

Indeed, Garnett is passionate about everything it takes to play basketball at the highest level. I have always felt there’s a short list of elite players who fall under the category of five-tool talents who can score, rebound, defend, pass and make their teammates better — all at a high level. 

In all my years of covering sports, KG is the only player I have ever been around who had Hall of Fame-caliber skills in all five of those categories. 

And since he has retired, we have chatted a few times about his days in Boston and how he’s getting used to his new role on the other side of the camera. 

More smiles now, but the intensity to be his best? It’s still there and then some.

Now, he’s off to the Hall of Fame where he will finally be in the company of those whose passion for the game is close to his own, men and women who for years Garnett appreciated for the paths they blazed for him and so many others who have come and will continue to come after him. 

Celtics legend Bill Russell finally accepts Basketball Hall of Fame ring, 44 years later

Celtics legend Bill Russell finally accepts Basketball Hall of Fame ring, 44 years later

File this under: Better late than never.

Bill Russell's election to the Basketball Hall of Fame was a lock. That's what winning 11 championships in 13 seasons will do. 

But Russell — the first African-American player elected to the Hall in 1975 — refused his Hall of Fame ring, feeling that others before him should have been enshrined first.A major civil rights advocate, Russell refused to accept the ring for years -- until now. 

On Friday morning, he finally accepted the ring in a private ceremony with his wife and friends noting "Good to see progress."

    Check it out:

    Through 13 seasons and 963 games played, the center averaged 15.1 points, 4.3 assists and 22.5 rebounds per game. Russell won the MVP award five times: 1957-58, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63 and 1964-65. He also appeared in 12 All-Star games, winning the All-Star Game MVP award in 1963. 

    There's no words to describe how truly unbelievable Russell was on the court, and it's a pleasure to see him finally accept his well-deserved HOF ring. 

    Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the Maine Red Claws vs. the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, which tips off Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET , followed by Celtics Pregame Live before the C's face the Warriors. You can also stream both games through the MyTeams App.

    Full list of Boston Celtics enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame

    Full list of Boston Celtics enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame

    No team has won more NBA championships than the Boston Celtics, so it stands to reason they'd be well represented in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    On Friday night, the lengthy list of C's enshrined in Springfield will add a few more names, with Chuck Cooper, Carl Braun, Paul Westphal and Bill Fitch getting inducted as part of the Class of 2019.

    Cooper broke the NBA's color barrier in 1950 when the Celtics selected him in the second round of the NBA Draft, and he wound up playing four seasons in Boston. Braun spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Knicks before winning a championship with the Celtics in his final season of 1961-62. A first-round pick of the Celtics in 1972, Westphal spent three years in Boston and won a title in 1974 before going on to greater fame with the Suns. Fitch compiled a 242-86 record in four seasons with the Celtics, and his .738 winning percentage is the highest in team history. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1980 and led the C's to a championship in 1981.

    So how many Celtics are in the Basketball Hall of Fame? Check out the full list of over players, head coaches and contributors (BOLD = name/number retired):

    PLAYERS

    • 2019
      • Carl Braun (1961-62)
      • Chuck Cooper (1950-54)
      • Paul Westphal (1972-75)
    • 2018
      • Ray Allen (2007-2012)
      • Dino Radja (1994-1997)
      • Charlie Scott (1975-1977)
    • 2016
      • Shaquille O'Neal (2010-2011)
    • 2015
      • Jo Jo White (1969-1979)
    • 2013
      • Gary Payton (2004-2005)
    • 2012 
      • Don Barksdale (1953-1955)
      • Don Nelson (1965-1976)
    • 2011
      • Artis Gilmore (1988)
      • Tom "Satch" Sanders (1960-1973)
    • 2010
      • Dennis Johnson (1983-1990)
    • 2006
      • Dominique Wilkins (1994-1995)
    • 2003
      • Robert Parish (1980-1994)
    • 2000
      • Bob McAdoo (1979)
    • 1999
      • Wayne Embry (1966-1968)
      • Kevin McHale (1980-1993)
      • John Thompson (1964-1966)
    • 1998
      • Larry Bird (1979-1992)
      • Arnie Risen (1955-1958)
    • 1997
      • Bailey Howell (1966-1970)
    • 1993
      • Bill Walton (1985-1987)
    • 1991
      • Dave Cowens (1970-1980)
      • Nate "Tiny" Archibald (1973-1983)
    • 1990
      • Dave Bing (1977-1978)
    • 1989
      • K.C. Jones (1968-1967)
    • 1988
      • Clyde Lovellette (1962-1964)
    • 1987
      • Pete Maravich (1980)
      • Bob Houbregs (1954-1955)
    • 1986
      • Tom Heinsohn (1956-1965)
    • 1984
      • John Havlicek (1962-1978)
      • Sam Jones (1957-1969)
    • 1982
      • Frank Ramsey (1954-1964)
    • 1976
      • Bill Sharman (1951-1961)
    • 1975
      • Bill Russell (1956-1969)
    • 1971
      • Bob Cousy (1950-1963)
    • 1961
      • Andy Phillip (1956-1958)
    • 1960
      • Ed Macauley (1950-1956)

    COACHES

    • 1964 - John "Honey" Russell
    • 1968 - Alvin "Doggie" Julian
    • 1969 - Red Auerbach
    • 2013 - Rick Pitino
    • 2015 - Tom Heinsohn 
    • 2019 - Bill Fitch

    CONTRIBUTORS

    • 1965 - Walter Brown, William Mokray
    • 1999 - Wayne Embry
    • 2006 - Dave Gavitt

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