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.