It only took six seasons wearing green in white for the Big Ticket to become one of 22 players to get his number retired.
In helping the Celtics hoist championship banner No. 17 in his first season with the team, Garnett brought attitude and extreme intensity to a historic franchise who was at the time starving to regain its relevance.
The blockbuster deal that brought Garnett to Boston to team up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen was not only a victory for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, but it was also a victory for Boston sports because not only did the team finally capture a top 5 star in the league, but they also acquired a player who embraced what it meant to best a Celtic.
Like the great Bill Russell, like Bob Cousy, like Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett bled green every time he stepped on the basketball court.
Kevin Garnett gave the Boston Celtics a winning identity again
In fact, he bled green so much his sweat looked green. While he proved “anything is possible” when he yelled the famous words as the confetti fell in a championship victory over the rival Los Angeles Lakers, Garnett just had one regret in his NBA career.
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He wished he joined the legacy of the Boston Celtics organization a bit sooner.
On the eve of being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Garnett made every Celtics fan smile.
"“You come into the NBA wanting to win, and losing is part of it,” Garnett said, via CBS Sports. “But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Getting with a storied franchise like Boston, gave me light, gave me breath, gave me purpose. And the players that you’re playing with actually make the experience monumental, made it magical. The city is – the city was waiting for something big or for something different to happen versus where it was, and when we went, we just never looked back. The fanbase in Boston was over the top. People following you home, people standing outside your gate when you get home, people wanting to pump your gas. The fan level in Boston was just another level, but I learned to embrace it. My only regret in any of this is that I should have come to Boston a little earlier, other than that it was magical.”"
It sure was magical and to think, the Garnett that came to Boston was just over his prime. Through all his years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was valued but that value didn’t have the same intensity as it did in the city of Boston. It was much the opposite of a player like Kyrie Irving, very much the opposite.
In averaging 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in those six seasons, Garnett brought a purpose to the court that made everyone around him want to play that much better. He made an All-Star like Paul Pierce that much more clutch as finally he had another presence pushing him. He turned a young point guard named Rajon Rondo into a player who shined on the biggest stage.
Finally, he showed that a city known for racial conflict (fair or unfair) can connect with and make an African American player the face of the franchise, even if it was brief. In that respect, No. 5 being raised to the rafters on March 13, 2022, means much more.
Every time there is a Kyrie Irving hinting at what the city still is, the city of Boston can counter that with how Garnett was valued in that same city. In that, that blockbuster trade was a victory for Boston sports both on the court and socially.