Garnett posted a farewell video on Friday, four days before the Minnesota Timberwolves are set to open training camp. He narrates the brief, black-and-white video that shows him walking through Target Center with shades on.
“I am just thankful. I can not even put that into words,” Garnett says. “I’m simply thankful. I am just thankful for the love and everybody. I never would have believed that folks love me like this. But, for it to be reality is only something else, guy. Man.”
Garnett advised the Timberwolves of his decision to retire Friday. The team will waive the franchise icon, which will enable him to accumulate his whole $8 million salary for the 2016-17 season.
The San Antonio Spurs made the same move with Tim Duncan when he retired this summer.
“I’ve valued the chance to to see him grow as a leader. I wish him continued success in the next chapter of his life. His Minnesota buffs will always cherish the memories he’s supplied.”
The 40-year old Garnett put the Timberwolves on the map by turning one of the hapless franchises in professional sports into a perennial playoff team.
He was a scrawny 7-footer with a versatile game when the Timberwolves took a chance and plucked him from Chicago’s Farragut Academy with the fifth overall pick and a bright smile.
The door opened for a fresh generation of teens to pour into the NBA.
The choice was considered a danger at the time, but Garnett’s success paved the way for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady to follow him.
Some of them, like Bryant, James and Jermaine O’Neal, were wildly successful. Others like Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown and Korleone Young flamed out.
The influx of youth into the league prompted the NBA to embrace a rule that required players to play with at least one year of college, and that wasn’t the only important change brought about in part because of Garnett.
Through his basketball career, Garnett insisted on being listed at 6-foot-11 even though he was at least 2 inches taller. He didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a large guy who needed to stay around the basket when he was so much more.
Known as the “Big Ticket,” Garnett could manage the ball, shoot it from outside, take an opponent off the dribble and post up as well while being able to defend all five positions. He was one of five players to play at least 50,000 minutes, and his practice habits are the stuff of legend.
Garnett also made more than $330 million in his career, the most by any player in league history, and owners dug their heels in during a lengthy lockout in 1997 after a 21-year old Garnett signed a six-year, $126 million deal.
After spending his first 12 seasons in Minnesota after being traded to Boston Garnett played six seasons.
In 2008, Garnett won his only championship ring as a Celtic.
“Everything changed the day Kevin arrived in Boston,” Celtics co-owner and managing partner Wyc Grousbeck said in a statement. “From that moment we knew we’d get to the Finals and have an opportunity to win. I’ve never met this type of grim competition or such an excellent teammate.”
One of his trademark moves was to block the shot of an opposing player who attempted to get a freebie after a foul was called. The message was clear: Nothing was going to be easy with him prowling the paint.
“Very few players can affect an organization like Kevin did here in Boston, both on and off the court,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said. “He led our team by example every single day with his drive, his fire, and his grim dedication to winning. While consistently placing team ahead of individual, Kevin earned his place among the finest players in Celtic and NBA history.”
Before the late Flip Saunders convinced Garnett to agree to a trade to return to Minnesota at the deadline in 2015 he spent a half with the Brooklyn Nets and a forgettable season.
During his second stint with the Wolves, he served as a mentor to youngsters like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Zach LaVine, instilling in them a sense of intensity and professionalism that helped lay the basis for what the team hopes is a breakout year for the forthcoming season.
“You know how much I’m gonna miss playing with you and just merely having you near,” Towns wrote on Instagram . “Congrats on having one of the best careers the game has ever seen. We talked. I know what I must do. I will take it from here.”
Garnett had considered returning. But he was restricted by knee dilemmas to only 85 games within the last two seasons, and Garnett lost the man he trusted most in the organization after Saunders died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma before last season.
Garnett spoke frequently of his desire to one day get into ownership with the Wolves, but it remains uncertain if that’s still possible after Saunders’ passing. The Wolves have new basketball leadership in coach /president Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden, and Garnett has little power in the organization that previous coach Sam Mitchell and Saunders are gone.
“That would be a lot up to him,” Taylor said. “Things have changed so much and does he still need to do that? We definitely will have the opportunity to talk about that. There’s a lot of good reasons to do it and I am open to it.”
Garnett finishes his NBA career as one of three players with 10,000 rebounds 25,000 points and 5,000 assists.
Garnett was the NBA’s rebounding champion for four straight seasons from 2003-04 to 2006-07.
“Kevin Garnett is among the fiercest competitions our league has ever seen,” commissioner Adam Silver said. On behalf of the NBA family, I thank Kevin for his continual superiority and the enormous impact he’s had on the game.”
Garnett says, as the Instagram video finishes: “We going to be all right, guy … I don’t expect this to be simple. But so far, so good. Stay tuned.”