Kevin Garnett: The Cal Ripken Jr. of the NBA

Sam FaderContributor IJune 25, 2008

Do you remember when you or your kids played the "Backyard Baseball" franchise for the PC? Probably not. Either way, in the game, when you had Cal Ripken on your team, all of your players' attributes would be increased by one point in each category, effectively making every player on your team better.

Hello, Kevin Garnett.

Coming into this season, after the Ray Allen and KG trades, the Celtics still had tons of questions.

Kendrick Perkins had been "developing" for four, going on five years. Was he ever actually going to make the step up after coming out of high school as a raw, unfinished product, as we so often see in today's game? Honestly, it didn't seem like he ever was. He had size, but not smarts. He had strength, but didn't know when to effectively use it.

Then came the man they call 'The Big Ticket.' It didn't happen right away, but KG managed to essentially add a dimension to Perkins' game. As we were all able to witness during the playoffs this year, Kendrick Perkins played like a man possessed on defense. He was all over the place, whether that meant blocking shots, grabbing tough boards, or, most importantly, making most of the right rotations.

In the past, it appeared like his head was never in the game. Come on, admit it: KG is scary. And he scared the crap out of Perkins, enough so to actually make him a legitimate top-15 center in the NBA.

Then, of course, there is the story of Paul Pierce. We (Celtics fans) all knew that Pierce could always play defense. However, considering the fact that he carried the complete offensive burden the last few years, he was never able to showcase his defensive prowess.

I've always been a believer that all you need to play good defense is heart, determination, effort, and energy. When Pierce knows that he has a good team behind him, and isn't tired from hoisting up 20 shots and going to the line a dozen times, he shows this. That's not a knock on Pierce, by any means. I think that is the same way with most every player in the league. And that's what happened during the playoffs, and especially in the Finals against the Lakers. Thanks, KG.

One defining moment from the Celtics season for me was in a game in the first round of this year's playoffs against the Hawks, if my memory serves me correctly. Leon Powe produced one of his trademark energy plays and then made a heart-thumping dunk over some shocked Hawks players. Hawks coach Mike Woodson immediately called a timeout, and KG got right into Powe's face. He was screaming (in encouragement) right in his ears, pushing Powe, and actually lightly (by accident) tapping heads.

For me, it summed up KG's season perfectly. Without his communication, energy, effort, and ability to motivate and almost anger his teammates, Kendrick Perkins would still be developing, Paul Pierce would not have become known as a great defensive player, and Leon Powe would have sat on the bench for the entire playoffs.

Of course, you can't leave out the job the coaching staff did with the team, especially assistant Tom Thibodeau. He is known as a defensive guru, and he certainly did his job.

However, this one goes out to KG. Thank you for creating an indentity for this team. You will not be forgotten among the Celtics greats, and, as we all know, that is saying a lot.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.