He was only a rookie then, and truly, so was I. He was the first player in 20 years to skip college and go directly to the NBA, and he faced backlash because of it. He persevered, becoming the greatest player in Minnesota Timberwolves franchise history, an NBA Champion and a sure first ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 2021. (What a stacked class that will be, with Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan both becoming eligible in the same year!)
I remember when the T-Wolves debuted their new jerseys in 1996-97, only the second design in franchise history, how badly I wanted to get his road blue to wear around. I was never able to find it, back then in those pre-internet days you were at the mercy of what you could find in local stores, and me being a fatso, I was never able to find one big enough...I never got it.
I also remember, when I came back to the NBA after my break from 2006-12, how badly I wanted to get a card of him with the Celtics. I now regret my break immensely, considering it one of the biggest mistakes I ever made, but during that time he was traded from the T-Wolves to the Celtics, where he would win his only NBA Championship. When I took the break in 2006, the first game I watched (or at least remember watching) was when the Celtics won the NBA title. I have since added several cards of him with the Celtics, but getting that first one (2008-09 MVP) was a memory that I treasure.
This card, his 1995-96 Finest rookie, was in my Top 5 most wanted from the time it was new until I finally got it, in mid 2015. Amazingly, I don't think I ever shared it to the blog.
While not the first Celtics card I got of him, this one has my favorite photograph. I just scanned it yesterday, so that was timed nicely. I haven't even labeled the scans yet.
While with the Nets, he wore the #2 in honor of his friend Malik Sealy, who was killed when a drunk driver hit him while he was on the way home after a birthday party for Garnett.
I've shown this card before- I was watching this game and he got the ball and had a fast break dunk, it was shades of the KG of old...but it turned out to be the last highlight of his career, as injuries just took too much of a toll and he ended the season unable to play...he attempted to come back for one final season but just couldn't do it, retiring now, just 4 days before training camp opens.
He also earned more money than any other player in NBA history...including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. There had been some talk that after retirement he would become a partial owner of the T-Wolves, but that was before a portion of the team was sold to Chinese investors recently, so I don't know if that is still in the cards. I hope so. NBA rules prevent players from owning or coaching a team while they are playing for some reason. Personally I would think a person who has more interest in a team than just employee would be more of a motivator, but nobody asked me!
For me, now going forward, it's a weird feeling, as every player in the league has now come in after I started watching. Although, due to the break I mentioned above, I didn't get to experience the full rookie impacts of the 2007-11 drafts, but none of them- not a single one- has always been there. Every single player in the league now is somebody I got to learn about as it happened, where with KG, he was already part of the league's history before I discovered the sport existed. I'm sure I'm not explaining it well because I am not even happy with this paragraph, but hopefully you get the drift of what I'm trying to impart. I knew this would happen eventually- I have no plans of ever leaving the sport again- but to have it actually happen is a weird and not particularly pleasant feeling.
Still, it's been fun to watch him play all these years, and I have many memories of watching him play that I will treasure.
My favorite, I think, was with a game against the Nuggets. I believe it was a playoff game, probably 2003 or 2004. During a timeout, he just casually went over to the Nuggets' huddle, and they didn't even notice! Not only that, they included him! The T-Wolves won that game, of course. In fact, it's one of my favorite memories of the NBA at all. My mom and I still laugh about it (we watched the game together).