Dear Mr. Garnett,
I knew this day was coming. I just never wanted to believe it.
My introduction to the NBA actually stemmed from a video game — NBA Live 2001, which features you on the cover. I played that game daily and I played with the Wolves because I assumed the team on the cover was the best team on the game (Hey, I was six years old. You can give me a break). Then I saw NBA Live 2001 cover guy actually play a game on television, and you soon became my favorite player.
Unfortunately, it appears as if your legendary NBA career is finally coming to a close. For those of us who grew up watching you, idolizing you and imitating you, it will be awhile before this sets in.
For me and for so many Wolves fans, you are the reason we love basketball and the NBA. You are the reason Target Center holds thousands of fans each home game. Heck, you might be the reason the Minnesota Timberwolves still exist.
And on behalf of Wolves fans everywhere, I say thank you.
Thank you for providing a spark to a young expansion franchise that desperately needed one. It didn’t take you long to put the Wolves on the map. These fans waited seven years to watch their NBA team play a playoff game. But really, they were waiting for you, and you answered their call. Despite little help from the front office, you single-handedly made the Wolves a force to be reckoned with year-in and year-out for 12 years.
Thank you for the incredible ride that was the 2003-04 season. For me personally, that was the season that got me hooked on Wolves basketball. It was my first season as a true NBA fan, and I will never forget it. The way you carried that roster on your shoulders on that magical run resonated with not just me, but with millions of basketball fans. Thank you for Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. For a brief time that day, the “State of Hockey” was the “State of Basketball”.
Thank you for maintaining a close relationship with Flip Saunders. We in Minnesota take for granted what the duo of you and Flip did for the game of basketball in this state. Flip is one of Minnesota’s own, and we all appreciated the way you assimilated with Flip from the moment you were drafted.
Thank you for winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. It just was never going to happen in Minnesota, and you more than anyone deserved a ring. And then you gave us “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!” which was just too kind of you. I always felt a sense of guilt knowing you were being held back in Minnesota. For me and for thousands of other fans, your championship means something more than just a former Wolf winning a title with another team. You are so embedded with Wolves fans that your success for another team was success for us.
Thank you for returning to Minnesota in 2015 to assist Flip in rebuilding this franchise. Your return rejuvenated a completely depleted fan base that was zombified by over 10 years of underachievement. The lessons you have passed on to the young core currently in place is invaluable. Your tutelage of players like Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns will absolutely play a role in the future of this franchise.
Speaking of KAT, thank you for that guy. Thank you for taking him under your wing and showing him the ins and outs of surviving in the NBA. Thank you for recognizing the similarities between the state of the Wolves when you entered the league and when Towns has entered and recognizing the sense of urgency.
Thank you for slapping Blake Griffin on a poster at the age of 39. This play brought us so much joy. For just a minute, we were experiencing the 2003-04 season all over again. We saw the same uncanny passion and tenacity that led the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals.
You see Mr. Garnett, casual NBA fans will never understand exactly what you mean to not just the Wolves franchise, but to the entire state of Minnesota. You and Flip became sports icons in the state. There are very few professional athletes that have meant more to their city or their state than you have.
Very few athletes can realistically claim an entire franchise as their own. I would argue that no athlete has had the impact on one franchise that you have had on the Minnesota Timberwolves. If you had not stuck with the Wolves for as long as you did, this franchise might not exist.
Thank you for all of your contributions to the Minnesota Timberwolves. You may not boast the title of “owner” of the franchise. But as far as I’m concerned, this franchise is yours.
So, Mr. Garnett, thank you. Thank you for giving us the Minnesota Timberwolves.