At some point it will come to an end. The era that began on November 3, 1995 will be over and Kevin Garnett will walk away from the NBA as one of the greatest to play the game. Until then, the 38 year old continues to extend his career, year by year, hustle play by hustle play, pouring himself into each moment he steps on the court.
Garnett, who is in the final year of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets, said he does not know if this will be his last go around. He gives each year his all and then assesses it at the end. As he makes his way through his 20th season he pauses a little longer to soak up each ovation, especially in cities he has called home, knowing it is not a matter of if, but when he will close this chapter.
On Friday Garnett returned to Boston, where he played six seasons and won a championship in 2008. The fans greeted him back with a loud reception during the starting lineup introductions.
“It’s always love here,” he said following the Nets 109-107 win over the Celtics. “It’s always an appreciation that I could never give back other than the salute. Winning is infinite and I’ve always had that special relationship with this city.”
Garnett (averaging 7.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game) posted six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes during what could have been his last game at TD Garden. The possible finality wasn’t lost on him.
“At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back whether I admit it or not,” he said.
This trip back to his old stomping grounds struck a chord with Garnett, who was traded with Paul Pierce to the Nets in 2013. Following that move, Rajon Rondo had been the last remaining player from the 2008 title team. The point guard was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks last week.
Garnett described Rondo’s absence as “very weird.” He became close friends with Rondo, ten years his junior, during his time in Boston and has been in touch since to check in on him. Garnett expects him to thrive on the Mavericks playing alongside former championship winners. Watching him with his new team, Garnett observed Rondo playing defense “like old times,” talking on the court and being himself.
“[I was a] little bit [surprised],” Garnett said of the trade. “But nothing surprises me after Michael Jordan moving to different teams, Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] moving to different teams, players in the histories going to different teams. I guess at that point it’s just a matter of when and where.”
While Garnett has yet to decide when his basketball days will be over, a significant part of his career is. The 2008 Celtics’ championship banner that hangs in the rafters is a reminder of what was, a time when Garnett helped lead a newly constructed team to the ultimate level in their first year together. He breathed intensity, passion and drive into a squad that made a mark six years ago and is revered by fans today. Even though none of the players are still in green and white, Garnett believes the entire roster still has a place in Boston.
“I’ve been getting a bunch of ‘rest in peace’ texts and stuff so I had to change my number,” Garnett said of end of the championship team. “It’s all good, though. We’re infinite. Once you win once, you win forever.”
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