Kevin Garnett Talks His Biggest Flex and How He Earned MJ’s Approval During a Rift With Scottie Pippen

We chatted up the NBA legend about his new doc dropping this week featuring a bunch of basketball A-listers who paint the picture of KG's impact and influence.

Kevin Garnett HOF Mohegan Sun 2021

UNCASVILLE, CT - MAY 14: Enshrinee Kevin Garnett addresses the media during the Class of 2020 Press Conference as part of the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on May 14, 2021 at the Cabaret Theatre at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Kevin Garnett HOF Mohegan Sun 2021

On one of the most consequential days of his life, Kevin Garnett wasn’t thinking about making an impression. He was just looking for a distraction. 

Fresh off earning MVP honors in the 1995 McDonald’s All-American Game, the good vibes from his performance in St. Louis had worn off. With only $200 to his name that needed to last a couple of months, Garnett returned home to Chicago to find an eviction notice waiting for him and he was stressing like crazy trying to earn a qualifying SAT score so he could get into college. He had to quiet all the noise so his boys coaxed him to go downtown to ball at one of the city’s nicer courts.

Two Chicago icons just happened to be at the same gym that day and if not for that fateful trip, who knows if Kevin Garnett ever becomes KG—a member of the NBA 75 squad, an inductee this fall into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and NBA champion who carved out one of the most influential careers in recent history. 

“It was an impactful day, it changed my life, and I’ll never forget that day,” says Garnett. “I thank Michael Jordan to this day for letting me come in and having that experience and, more impactful, having Isiah Thomas to the side to walk me through and talk to me on another level to actually help me make the decision to come out of high school.” 

The full story, and so much more, is told in “Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible,” the new documentary airing on Showtime this week that chronicles the rise of Garnett from South Carolina kid to Chicago high school disruptor to NBA legend. If you’re a fan of Garnett, who forever keeps it real, you won’t be disappointed as he looks back on his basketball journey.   

Debuting Friday at 8 p.m. ET, the film features a bunch of A-listers like Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce, Candace Parker, Doc Rivers, Thomas, and more who help paint the picture of the impact and influence of Garnett. Earlier this week, we caught up with the Big Ticket via Zoom to talk about that pickup game with MJ, running through “what if” scenarios if Stephon Marbury had stayed in Minnesota, and his biggest flex. But if there’s one thing Garnett, 45 and five years removed from his last NBA game, would really like you to take away from the doc, it’s that all the success and accolades he accumulated following that fateful day with MJ and Zeke did not come by accident.  

“I put in that work and a lot of people don’t understand it,” says Garnett. 

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

The doc starts off with you talking about being motivated by the hate more than anything else. Was it specific hate or general hate that fueled you throughout your career? 

I’m sure you can generalize it. But for the most part, it’s just overall. You’re conscious of it. You’re hearing it. And that pushes you. Or it pushed me. I wouldn’t say so much hate, but what you can do versus what you can’t do. I’m a person who is probably a little bit over the top…I can call myself compulsive because when I put everything into something I want to get it right. I was a passionate player. But when it came to certain people saying I couldn’t do certain things or being critiqued by some of the masses or experts, that drove me. That pushed me. I wouldn’t necessarily say hate, it was more what could you do versus what couldn’t you do in comparison to other players. I was so into that. That drove me. 

You said early in the doc that you wanted, and still want to be, as original as can be. What aspect of your originality are you most proud of? 

I would just say rocking to your own beat, if you will. I think we’re all fans of different things, right? I would have inspiration from a multitude of things and kind of pick little things off those things that inspired me and put them into my own thing. Marching to your own beat can come off weird and anti-social, but all it is is that this is the way I do things and I’m choosing to be different from what I’m seeing. That’s pretty much the message. I always say what’s the definition of weird? And we often come up with that. But when it comes to living something to what you see fit for yourself then that’s a lifestyle. I focused on more of what I thought was cool, in a respectable way, and how I saw certain things. If I saw it before and it didn’t go a certain way, and I still wanted to do it, I would critique that and make it into my own. When I speak to young people all the time, and they consider themselves weird, I’m like, nah, just consider yourself different and doing it different. And that’s the message.  

My favorite line from the doc was from Allen Iverson who said about you, “I might’ve heard him before I saw him.” Of all the A-list names who spoke about you in this doc, whose words meant the most?

All of them. I’m huge fan of everybody that participated in the doc. I was kind of disappointed with all the people I couldn’t get in because I wanted to show a real range. [With the] pandemic, trying to get people scheduled, I was just very, very, very thankful for everyone that came on and spoke and gave their two cents on me. It’s funny, you don’t know how people see you. You don’t know how people perceive you. I just like to think I did it the right way, I respected everybody on the way, you make friends and foes in it. Hopefully, more friends than foes and it’s just dope to have good people like those people that came on. Each of those guys who came on and spoke on me, I have a lot of respect for and I consider them like a brother or sister. It meant a lot to me.  


“That’s the biggest flex. Betting on yourself and then you winning and looking like a fucking genius in the whole thing of it.”


While AI was incredibly influential, so were you. I’m curious what’s a bigger flex: Being the first guy drafted out of high school in 20 years and starting that trend or the six-year, $126 million deal that fucked up the NBA for a little bit and led to a lockout?

NBA wanted to be fucked up, let me correct that part. I’d say coming in out of high school, man, betting on yourself when everybody’s looking at you like, “What the hell are you doing? Why don’t you go to college? Why don’t you do what everybody else did? Why are you doing it differently? You’re not going to even be in the league for that many years.” You know, just all those what ifs and those questions and having people in your own circle question. That’s the biggest flex. Betting on yourself and then you winning and looking like a fucking genius in the whole thing of it. Money comes and goes, you know what I’m saying? But when you’re able to impact and be able to make impressions on people to where they actually take part of your own script and actually use it. Someone told me the biggest form of flattery is to be copied. So yeah, to influence people is right up there with it. That’s probably my biggest flex. 

Do you remember talking more shit to Michael Jordan the first time you played him in a pickup game before you entered the league or when you got to the league? 

I didn’t talk any shit. Listen, I got into a rift with Scottie Pippen that I kinda left out because I didn’t, you know what I mean…I got into a rift with Scottie Pippen and I guess how I carried myself in that whole ordeal got Michael’s approval. Now recently I just heard Scottie and Michael with this big rift that they have so it makes sense why Michael was kind of on some, you know. It was an impactful day, it changed my life, and I’ll never forget that day. I thank Michael Jordan to this day for letting me come in and having that experience and, more impactful, having Isiah Thomas to the side to walk me through and talk to me on another level to actually help me make the decision to come out of high school. So that was a beneficial day for my legacy and everything that came after it. 

You said in the doc you used to think “what if” you and Stephon Marbury had stayed together, but didn’t elaborate. How wild did your imagination run when you thought about the heights you could’ve reached together? 

The reason why I didn’t elaborate on it is because Steph didn’t want the same “what if.” I wasn’t going to tease myself and talk about the girl I couldn’t get or some shit like that. I wanted to focus on all the chicks out there that were looking for me or a tall chocolate something like myself. [Laughs] You know what I’m saying? I had a vision with Steph and I and we just didn’t see eye-to-eye. He wanted his own so that’s where we left it. I never embarked on any of it. I left it right there and I never turned around to actually give it any other energy and that’s why I cut it short. 

Kevin Garnett Stephon Marbury 1997 Sacramento Minnesota

Was how your time in Minnesota ended the most disappointing episode of your career? 

Ummm, I always say it’s a balance, man. I’ve had some unbelievable nights and times in Minnesota on the court and off the court. I also had some dark times in Minneapolis on the court and off the court. For the most part, it’s what makes you. I’ve learned throughout my life that not everything is perfect. Not everything goes as planned and it’s about what you do after those dismal times and who are you after those times. What’s your makeup after you go through something? What do you do after that? Still having an opportunity, still being able to control your narrative, which a lot of players don’t get to do, was a big thing for me. Although things didn’t end the way I wanted them to in Minnesota, I learned a lot and I had some great experiences that actually made me better for when I went to Boston and later on to Brooklyn and then to come back to Minnesota. I can’t ever be mad for somebody else’s decisions if they’re not aligning with mine. I’m not that person. But I do dream, I do have stuff that I want to acquire and achieve while I’m on this earth and if they don’t align up with other people that’s ok. Onto the next. 

I don’t know if it’s going to make the final cut, but the screener I watched featured a segment after the end credits of you hanging out with Snoop and he FaceTimed DOC, your favorite MC. And there’s an earlier segment where you’re hanging out with Snoop, talking about the time you were in Toronto together. What’s your favorite lesson learned from all the time you’ve spent with Snoop?

Snoop has always been the constant professional, but always been a constant friend. His message not just to me, but to [Rajon] Rondo and all the younger guys that we’ve all been friends for a while is be on top of what you’re doing. Character is everything is business. Excuse my French, but don’t ever fuck the bag up. When you’re being professional be professional. Everything away from the court is private and keep your private life private. Snoop’s out here for everybody to know certain things about him, but he’s a very private person and does things really in the midst of his own privacy and he always threw that as a script to, don’t forget, protect yourself and protect your own privacy. He was always consistent with that, but always a good time and always good energy.

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