Even before Kevin Garnett was suspended for game two of his Boston Celtics' first round playoff series against the Miami Heat, there was a growing consensus that he had devolved into one of the NBA's dirtiest players.
As soon as Garnett's elbow connected with Quentin Richardson's face there was no shortage of players willing to testify that Garnett was indeed a dirty player, and the loudest volleys came from the Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah.
Although Noah is currently embroiled in his own playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was more than willing to call Garnett out, even going as far to say he was currently sore form an errant Garnett elbow.
Or maybe not so errant because Noah swears it was intentional, and he proceeded to call Garnett a dirty player no less than five times during the course of his interview.
It wasn't always like that for the 14 year veteran, because when Garnett was drafted out of Farragut Academy by the Minnesota Timberwolves he was considered one of the most amiable souls in all of basketball.
Garnett's charisma, smile, and personality made him a logical choice for numerous endorsements, and the general perception was Garnett was one of the nicest players in the NBA.
But somewhere along the line attitudes about Garnett shifted, and the culprit may be all of the losing seasons he was forced to endure as a member of the Minnesota franchise.
Even if this is true, it's hard to explain how Garnett is perceived in Boston where he led the Celtics to a NBA championship, and has helped keep his team near the top of the league's standings since his tenure began in Boston.
I have always thought that Garnett's reputation was more a result of the intensity and passion he brings to the game each night, because the image of a thug betrays his humble Southern roots.
Garnett was raised in Mauldin South Carolina, and for those unfamiliar with Southern life it is often marked by the long, slow days, and the unmistakable southern hospitality you encounter in most places.
From these humble beginnings it's hard to see where Garnett's attitude and demeanor shifted, but it's hard to miss the various opinions rival players have about Garnett's worthiness as a dirty player.
Even the gentle giant Tim Duncan has called some of Garnett's antics questionable, and when LeBron James was asked if he felt Garnett was guilty of dirty plays, his response was no comment.
Richardson says it's common knowledge that Garnett is a dirty player, but if you fail to retaliate he will take it as a sign of weakness, and Garnett's efforts to throw a player's mental game off will increase.
An example of this was in the Celtics' narrow first round victory against the Atlanta Hawks in 2008, where Garnett's verbal and physical abuse of Hawk's reserve Zaza Pachulia was clearly apparent.
Pachulia continuously tried to take the high road and avoid confrontation with Garnett to no avail. Eventually, the constant disparaging comments from Garnett became to much for Pachulia to handle and chaos ensued, as the players were involved in a minor mid-game skirmish.
This season in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Brandon Jennings, the Bucks' rookie point guard said a close victory over the Celtics was made sweeter due to the constant rough-housing and taunting Garnett engaged in throughout the evening.
There are numerous other player accounts and they all point to the same conclusion of Garnett as a dirty player, and the consensus among fans outside of Massachusetts is pretty much the same.
Most fans of other teams have already decided Garnett's play borders on thuggery, and the only player in the league I can think of with a similar reputation is Denver's Kenyon Martin, and even he pales next to Garnett.
Maybe Garnett has resorted to these tactics as his skills have diminished, or quite possibly this has been a part of his game for the majority of his career, but he has kept it hidden beneath the surface.
Whatever the case may be, there is little doubt Garnett has contributed in part to his own reputation as a dirty player, and even if he doesn't stand at the top of the league in that category, he's definitely in the conversation.
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