If Kevin Garnett’s Timberwolves career teaches us anything, it teaches us this: There can be glory in defeat.
A young Garnett dragged Minnesota to NBA relevance with his immense talent, but also with the force of his will. With his unbridled rage against losing. With every fiber of his being.
And in the end, through no fault of his own, they never reached the pinnacle. The rest of the organization simply wasn’t ready. The Wolves could not summon the single-minded focus on winning that defined Garnett, and so they fell short. And fell short again, and again.
And through it all, through more than a decade of unparalleled desire, hard work, and ultimately team failure, Garnett endured. He was ‘Sota, and he embraced the state and it’s basketball fans with his condor arms.
It was glorious. There are so many memories. A relevant Wolves team. A full Target Center with Garnett at the epicenter, driving his team to wins and the fans to a frenzied pitch.
His rookie season, when he was a young, gangly kid trying to figure it out, but with boundless energy and enthusiasm, and breathtaking gifts. The first home playoff game the Wolves ever won, against Seattle in 1998, where his 19-8-6 with three blocks and dominant defense was quintessential Garnett.
The dominant game seven performance against the Kings in 2004. Perhaps his finest moment in a Wolves uniform, the absolute peak of his powers. 32 and 21, with five blocks and four steals, and they needed every single one. It was the greatest night in the history of this franchise, and it was made possible by a super-human effort and brilliant performance by its greatest star.
Perhaps we should have known that it was the beginning of the end. He barely sat in the six games against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, averaged a brilliant 23.5-13.5-4.5, but it wasn’t enough. He gave everything he had; the Lakers had Shaq. And then it was over.
The Wolves haven’t been in the playoffs since. We had the good fortune of seeing the Garnett get his championship payoff with the Celtics a few years later, a moment that clearly meant everything to him, as the video below documents so eloquently.
His return to Minnesota to end his career was, frankly, supposed to feel better. The death of his friend Flip Saunders cast a pall over the team last season, and clearly affected Garnett. That, and his body breaking down, limiting him to 38 games, the last one in January, made it somewhat anti-climactic. Still, he had a profound influence on his teammates, and it was well worth the effort to bring him back.
Ultimately, the story of Kevin Garnett, Timberwolf, is a story of nobility. The nobility of failing brilliantly. The nobility of picking up and starting again, year after year, like Sisyphus and his rock. The nobility of giving everything to a pursuit, and demanding the same from others.
His career has come to an end now. The greatest Wolf there ever was. He fought and he raged and he gave everything he had to this franchise, and even though they never reached the summit, it was enough. He brought glory and nobility to a downtrodden franchise, and that meant everything.
From the moment he stepped onto the court, until the day he retired,
There was never another with more fire and desire.