Garnett humbled himself as Celtics prepare to retire his jersey | NBA

By KYLE HIGHTOWER – AP sportswriter

BOSTON (AP) — Post-retirement accolades have rained down on Kevin Garnett in recent years.

The 15-time NBA All-Star, one of the catalysts for the 2007-08 Boston team that raised the franchise’s 17th championship banner, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

This year he was honored as a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team and has written an intimate memoir that is a national best-seller.

Now at 45, KG will add another chapter to his legacy as he becomes the 24th member of the Celtics organization to have his jersey number retired in a ceremony after Sunday’s game against Dallas. His No. 5 is raised in the open spot next to the rafters of the TD Garden and four years later former teammate Paul Pierce saw his No. 34 anchored among the Celtics legends.

A player who was undeniably the emotional heart of the Celtics during his six seasons in Boston was looking for ways to describe the moments.

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“I’m just trying to soak it up, to be honest I’m trying to be very humble. I do not know. I’m just, it’s all a shock to me, you know what I mean? When children come to me and express their appreciation for different things. I really don’t know what to say other than ‘thank you,'” Garnett said in a recent interview. “I just stayed true to what I was and who I was. That was the easiest. I didn’t want to be something I wasn’t.”

While he retired from the NBA after the 2015-16 season in Minnesota, where his career began, his time with the Celtics changed his career.

“I’ve always been aware of those who came before me and laid the path for me,” Garnett said.

Drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves at 19, Garnett ushered in a new era in a league that had never seen a 6ft 11 player of his skill.

As agile as he was lanky, Garnett moved like a sentinel and created the archetype of the power forward, capable of stretching opponent defenses with his ability to fire from perimeters. It revolutionized the league so much that players with this skill are now a must when building the modern NBA roster.

Though he was never a true center, he still used his 240-pound frame to impose his presence in the paint on both ends of the court despite making the leap straight to pros out of high school.

But after leading the Timberwolves to eight playoff appearances in 12 seasons, Garnett couldn’t quite get them over the hill. After his 10th All-Star selection in 2007, he was assigned to the Celtics as the latest piece of an off-season reorganization that teamed him with future Hall of Famers Pierce and Ray Allen.

It formed the latest incarnation of the Big Three blueprint that NBA teams had followed to championships for years — from the Celtics’ dominance in the 1960s, to the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s, to the six titles of the Michael Jordan-led Bulls in the 1990s.

In retrospect, Garnett admitted that he wasn’t sure her version would live up to the expectations placed on her in 2007.

“I had a lot of confidence. I had great confidence in my abilities. I think my big concerns were how would I fit in with Paul? How would I work with Ray? How do you make friends with some of the young guys around here?” Garnett recalled. “(Former General Manager Danny Ainge) had a plan. I don’t know if that was the exact plan, but it worked.”

Garnett said doing his homework in Boston and the environment he headed into helped him mentally prepare for his first season in the green and white. It’s fueled his intensity, whether he’s challenging his teammates in practice or pushing them in games.

“I’ve never played less than 100 percent at the game,” Garnett said. “I once heard Larry Bird say in his early years in Boston…the reason he loved playing in front of the Boston fans was because you couldn’t fake them. You couldn’t fool the fans. They knew when you play hard. They knew when you gave it your all. They had a flair for basketball history and a high basketball IQ. They care. And I have never forgotten that.”

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