Charles Barkley once said, “I am NOT a role model.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that we all have role models and we all want to be like somebody, I don’t care how good your life is. There’s always something else you would like in it, no matter how good things are going for you. I’ve decided to take a turn away from my usual sports column and just write about five people that I would like to be. Writing about subjects like this is almost better than writing about football, because free-writing like this is where you discover that pure joy of writing just to write. Let’s say Peyton Manning wanted to take a break from the daily grind of professional football and just decided to play pitch and catch with some buddies in the backyard. Now I’m not comparing myself to Peyton Manning, not by any stretch of the imagination. The point I’m trying to make is that discovering that pure joy and passion in your life is what this world is all about. If you’re going to do something, I’d encourage you to do it with passion. These are wise words that were recently voiced by one of my buddies at Ohio University, Luke Florence, a native of Tiffin, Ohio. Those are excellent words to live by.
I’m not going to write about myself too much in this article, but let me just say I enjoy my life very much and I love myself. I think everybody out there should love themselves, otherwise there is something wrong. I’ve lived a very privileged life and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by many different people that have truly cared about me over the years. What is it like to be me? Well, it’s a lot of fun. My world has had a lot of highs and lows. I think that my highs are much higher than the average high and my lows are much lower than the average low. In life, we all have our peaks and valleys and I have had my fair share of both.
As good as your life may or may not be, we all want to be somebody. There are people out there that we idolize, we quote, and we try to impersonate to get one step closer to that actual person. I know there are several different people that I would love to be on this world. So, if somebody asked me, “Wade, if you could be anybody in the world, name five people you would like to be?”This is a very interesting question and hopefully I can bring you a highly entertaining answer. Let’s get down to business, shall we?
Boston Celtics' forward Kevin Garnett is virtually unstoppable with his jumpshot because of his long arms.
5. Coming in at number five is the man who currently dons number five for the Boston Celtics and the 2008 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Garnett. The Mauldin, South Carolina native has long been my favorite player in the NBA once he entered the league and my enthusiasm for Garnett’s game and his personality have only increased over the years. Known as “The Big Ticket” for most of his career, Garnett finally got what he deserved this off-season when the Boston Celtics signed him and Ray Allen to join forces with Paul Pierce. The trio was immediately touted as the favorites to win the NBA title before they played a regular season game, but they haven’t disappointed. They just dispatched of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 7 games and now own a 1-0 advantage over the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals. Some of you might ask, “Why Kevin Garnett?”
Well, that’s a pretty easy question. Allow me to go into sportswriter mode here for a bit. Kevin Garnett is easily a lock to be in the NBA Hall-of-Fame once he retires and has established himself as one of the most versatile players ever to play the game. James Naismith would certainly be smiling to see somebody playing his sport at such a high level.
KG is currently the all-time leader in NBA seasons played with averages of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Listed at 6’11, 220 pounds, Garnett was clearly born for the basketball court; his tremendously long arms allow him to blanket opponents with ease and get his jump shot off at any time he chooses.
KG aka "The Big Ticket" is one of the most intense players in the NBA.
Just ask Ben Wallace how easy his jump shot is to defend. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward, who is known for one of the better defenders in the NBA, looked helpless as Garnett nailed key shot after key shot right over Wallace’s outstretched hands. Garnett was all-universe coming out of high school. I remember my father reading about a man that was described as a combination of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird all in one.
Now I wouldn’t go that far, but Garnett is arguably the most versatile player in the league, with the ability to play small forward, power forward, or center. After transferring to Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois for his senior year of high school basketball, Garnett continued his dominance of the hardwood. During his senior year, he averaged 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 blocks, and 6.5 assists en route to leading Farragut Academy to a 28-2 record and earning National High School Player of the Year honors from USA Today.
Something about the number 5 just doesn't look right on Garnett, probably because he wore 21 for so many years in Minnesota.
KG was named Mr. Basketball for the State of Illinois and earned the prestigious honor of being named a McDonald’s All-American. He was named MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game after stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and three blocked shots for the contest. Soon after, he declared himself for the 1995 NBA Draft, becoming the first player in 20 years to jump directly from high school to the NBA. Contrary to popular belief, Garnett was actually eligible to play college basketball. "I passed my scores, I just got my scores late," he said. Where would he have played his college ball do you ask? The Michigan Wolverines, according to KG. “"I was going to be a Wolverine. Big Ten, totally. Plus I wanted to play with [Robert] Traylor -- he was a friend of mine. ... My plan was to do four years of college, not just for the basketball but for the education part, to better myself that way,” said Garnett. It certainly would’ve been interesting to see him play in college, that’s for sure.
Either way, when Garnett entered the league, he wasn’t immediately dominant, but would soon become the centerpiece of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ franchise. For several years, all Garnett did was post monster numbers with little or no help from a supporting cast around him and will his team the playoffs, only to be ousted in the first round. He had to have been frustrated, but Garnett remained fiercely loyal to the franchise that believed in him enough to make him the 5th draft pick in the first round once he entered the league.
KG AND 1 Commercial.
In the 2003-2004 season, for once Garnett looked like he was going to have enough help to allow him the chance to make a run at an NBA title. That off-season the Timberwolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, two highly talented players at their respective positions. Garnett had one of the best seasons of his NBA career, reeling in Most Valuable Player honors after averaging 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.5 steals for the Wolves. The combination of Sprewell, Cassell, and Garnett was working flawlessly and the Timberwolves posted a franchise record 58 wins in the regular season. Steamrolling into the playoffs, Minnesota finally got past the first round and got the monkey off their back for good. After beating the Nuggets 4-1, the Wolves slipped past the Sacramento Kings in 7 games, 4-3. Then they would face Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Los Angeles Lakers. KG and the Timberwolves put up a valiant effort, but with Sam Cassell and Troy Hudson unable to play due to injury, they had no chance and lost the series 4-2.
That would be the last taste of playoff competition that Garnett would have and after eight consecutive years of making the playoffs, the Timberwolves failed to miss the playoffs three consecutive seasons. That’s when the fiercely loyal Garnett finally said that he would listen to trade offers and the Celtics decided to acquire him in the 2007 off-season.
KG was all smiles once he landed in Boston with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Of course, who wouldn’t want to be Kevin Garnett because of his basketball ability? I admire him just as much as a person. Garnett is one of the most respected players in the league, because of his unwavering passion, heart, and enthusiasm for the game of basketball. Former Minnesota teammate Mark Madsen had high words of praise for Garnett: "You could measure KG's height at 7-1, his bench press, or minutes played. But he has a heart that can't be measured," he said. "You just have to experience it first hand, and even then, it really doesn't do its justice." It makes me smile to see a man that passionate about his job. He is also a true humanitarian off the floor. When he donated $1.2 million to Oprah’s Angel Network to help build 24 homes that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, it didn’t even get a mention in any national media. Nothing on the bottom line of ESPN, no Sports Center lead story, nothing.
Kevin Garnett in the latest Gatorade commercial.
It turns out that’s the way he would want it. "I don't do it for the TV, I do it for the people," Garnett said. "I don't want all the recognition because then everyone and their momma will want something done. I'm not Robin Hood; I am just Robin Hood's cousin."Giving back if you are in a position of privilege is a valuable lesson that everybody in this world should try and follow whenever possible. Another thing I love about Kevin Garnett is his respect for the game of basketball. I love watching him throw a cloud of rosin in the sky above press row before every game. It’s a ritual that he does in tribute to a man that needs no introduction—Michael Jordan. Garnett rubs his hands together with the rosin, clasps his hands together, then extends his arms outward, making for a rather picturesque scene with Garnett’s wingspan.
Big things are expected in these NBA playoffs from the likes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
So, to sum it all up, why wouldn’t you want to be more like Kevin Garnett? He’s talented, passionate, and caring. He is one of the greatest basketball players ever to play the game and has even drawn the admiration of legendary Celtic Bill Russell, who owns 11 championship rings. He has a jaw-droppingly beautiful wife named Brandi Padilla and is also one of the highest paid players in the NBA. Need I say more? Check back soon for number four on the list…