KG doesn’t have answers for Bulls
‘I was never close to signing with the Bulls’
Late in his NBA career, Kevin Garnett took a 13-hour flight to Beijing for a preseason game. His agent suggested Garnett go upstairs to the firstclass cabin to meet the president of Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza.
“A double-decker plane … dammmmmn,” Garnett, 43, recalled. “Steve looks like he’s about to (sleep). He’s tucked in. And we’re up for the next seven hours. I’m talking his head off. I threw all these ideas at him.”
One was to document Garnett going to college, either Michigan or North Carolina.
Wait, didn’t Rodney Dangerfield already do that?
The idea that stuck is what developed into a Showtime documentary that will air in the fall. Why then? Barring something ridiculous, Garnett will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in late August.
Garnett, who played for three teams and was a 15-time AllStar over a 21-season NBA career, could be frosty with the media as a player. And he said he was tempted to “fade to black” after retiring in 2016.
But as more entertainment and broadcasting outlets approached him, here’s the thing Garnett realized about himself: “If you ask me a question about something, I feel like I’ve got a story for damn near everything.”
OK, I thought Saturday while sitting at the Ace Hotel Chicago for a Showtime promotional event during NBA All-Star Weekend.
My question: Were you ever close to signing with the Bulls?
Garnett: “I was never close to signing with the Bulls. Ever.” Silence.
Garnett: “I don’t really have a why. There was never an opportunity to, and I saw how Jerry (Reinsdorf ), how they did Mike, you know, keeping it 100 (% truthful). And all players keep that in the back of their minds. If you treat the greatest like this … the greatest didn’t even have a chance to come back and have ownership. What he invested to build the Bulls, he didn’t even get a chance to come back and reap the benefits of that, so … players see that and remember that or put that in the back of their minds. At least I did.
“But I don’t know why in the hell the Bulls can’t sign any free agents. I don’t know.”
But you just said it. “Yeah,” Garnett replied, “I just probably gave you the answer all in there.
“But who knows? Different times, though. (Shoutout) to Zach LaVine, he’s doing his thing. Let’s see if they keep that nucleus together.”
Garnett has no ties to the Bulls but credits Chicago for making him a beast. He left South Carolina before his senior season of high school to suit up with Ronnie Fields at Farragut Career Academy.
“It helped me with competition,” he said. “I was never lacking in opportunity, never lacking a matchup. I was confident. Not to say I won every battle, but I competed against … you ask anyone in this city, they know me for hooping. Not just on the West Side but the South Side where West Siders don’t go. … I was playing on courts, I’m in people’s hoods, I’m in projects. I wasn’t even supposed to be there.
“West Siders don’t go past 81st and 82nd here in the city. I was at Kennedy-King (College) every Saturday playing against the Carver kids, the Simeon kids, the King kids, you know? I’d play against the DePaul guys when they were out of practice. We played ball all the time … kept (me) out of the headaches and the streets.”
Garnett remembers playing ball and having Scottie Pippen tell him: “You’re too young to be out here.”
But Isiah Thomas told him: “You can play in the league right now.”
“I said: ‘Zeke, what you say?’” “He said: ‘Boy, do you know you can go to the league from high school?’”
Thomas was right: The Timberwolves took Garnett with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft.
Garnett was nervous before the draft while working out for NBA executives, giants such as Pat Riley.
“He said: ‘What the (heck) is this? You’ve got me watching a high school guy?’” Garnett said. “And then I dunked it. Hey, (you bleep), what you mean, why you here?”
Garnett was asking himself that during the shooting of “Uncut Gems,” the Adam Sandler movie that won several critics’ awards.
“They tricked me, said I’d have a cool little get-in, get-out (role),” Garnett said. “And then two days turned into two weeks. Next thing you know I’ve got a book in front of me and have to learn this whole exchange with Adam. Acting is not something I’m looking to do but if y’all are looking for a 7-foot villain …”
Garnett was happy to play the role of bad guy while being named nine time All-Defensive First Team.
“I didn’t want to be cool on the court: Hey, what’s up? You cool, dog?” he said. “Nah. I wanted you to feel this smoke. I wanted you to be nervous, sweating. When I’m off the court I’m a whole different person.
“Pat Riley stayed in my head, and I played off that. When I watch film of myself, I was such an angry kid. But it was really coffee. Coffee made me a wild animal.”
Now you sense Garnett needs no java to be intense. And thoughtful. And funny.
Showtime execs hope those qualities come across in the doc about his life, career and legacy.
“We’re gonna build something here, put some dope product out,” he said. “And we’re gonna present it to the world.”
Retired NBA star Kevin Garnett talks about being named a finalist for the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.