When Kevin Garnett was a junior in high school in Mauldin, South Carolina, a race riot broke out. Garnett was arrested and charged with second-degree lynching—even though all accounts indicated he was there but not involved in the melee. Eventually, his record was expunged, but that incident not only stuck with Garnett. It drove him.
He was not going to let others determine his fate.
“I’m from the bottom,” Garnett has said about his life. “I understand what it’s like to not have.”
Twenty-one years later, Garnett held to his pledge and has significantly more than most. With the fear of prison still in his core, Garnett went on to became a future Hall of Fame NBA player who has the distinction of having earned more money over a career than any player in history.
This is a distant place from that fracas in rural South Carolina that could have ruined his life. This is an unprecedented place, a place hardly anyone could even dream. But it is a place Garnett has earned.
Furthermore, word is that he wants to take some of his considerable earnings—$325 million, to be exact—and form a team to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves, the franchise that drafted him out of high school in 1995. He graduated from Farragut Career Academy in Chicago because his family thought it best to get Garnett out of South Carolina. That’s how much tension there was. And it is a reason Garnett has played 20 seasons with a ferocity that could be described as that of a man desperate to not blow it.
“I’m not the type of person to give up just because something gets rough,” Garnett has said. “That’s a coward. That’s not me.”
He would become the second Black owner in the NBA, joining Michael Jordan. And there is a symmetry to that notion considering the racial incident as a youth helped spur him to greatness.
At 39 and with 20 seasons played, Garnett could play two more before trying to turn into owner. In the meantime, he was traded back to his original team and has already brought the elements only a player of his repute and respect can bring.
“As one of our veteran guys told our young guys yesterday, ‘Hey, listen, when KG walks in the locker room your phones better be tucked away, because if they’re not, they’re going to get thrown in the toilet on game night,’ ” Saunders said.
That’s what Garnett does. He forces a level of concentration that creates an environment for excellence.
“He changed their culture,” Saunders said of Garnett’s time with the Boston Celtics. “Doc (Rivers) told me that. They had veteran players and everything else, but when he went in the locker room, the music was cut off and everything.”
Known for his scowl while playing, Garnett contends it is all about one thing.
“I’m not for the flashes,” he said. “I’m not for glitz and glamour, you know. I just want to win, I want to be good at what I do and look back upon these days of playing in the NBA with pride. It’s been a long journey.”