It's impossible to properly explain what Kevin Garnett meant to the Boston Celtics after his arrival in 2007. His legacy will forever hang above the Garden floor in the form of the 2008 title banner, and his No. 5 jersey will soon find a spot nearby.
When you think about Garnett's tenure in Boston, you think about all the chest-pounds, the howls, the knuckle push-ups. You think about the pure bliss that enveloped him with the mere glimpse of his beloved Gino dancing on the JumboTron. As Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck noted near the end of Garnett's tenure in Boston, "I'll never see another Kevin Garnett in my life."
But one of the bright spots of Garnett's retirement this week after 21 NBA seasons has been going through the archives of stories from during his time in Boston and reliving a bit of that KG magic.
It reminded us that, when you cover Garnett, there is one simple rule: When KG speaks, you listen.
That's why Boston reporters would linger in the Celtics' locker room for up to 90 minutes after home games, just to hear Garnett answer a handful of questions in a three-minute Q&A session. It's why the sight of Garnett taking a seat on the sideline after practice would cause a stampede of microphone-wielding reporters who would often abandon the player they were previously talking to as not to miss any of Garnett's thoughts.
Garnett's media sessions were as entertaining as his performances on the court. Everything he said carried extra heft, and you couldn't risk missing one of his classic KG analogies.
He made writers on deadline sweat on game nights. Especially in the latter stages of his Boston days, Garnett would often be in the trainer's room getting his typical postgame massage and treatment for at least an hour after the completion of a game. For a national TV broadcast, that might push the clock close to midnight.
"I always like to use baking a cake as an example. Nothing's going to come out of the first two minutes. You have to sit there and wait on it, for y'all who know how to bake. Some of y'all don't know how to bake, but don't worry about it. Ask your mothers and fathers or something -- someone who knows how to bake. But it's very similar to that. You have to give it time for it to turn into what it's going to be."
Garnett would eventually emerge looking dapper, a scarf often tied around his neck and forever-patient PR guru Jeff Twiss by his side. He would apologize for his tardiness and speak in barely more than a whisper. But he always made it worth the wait to hear him talk.
Like in December 2011 when, as the NBA emerged from a lockout, Garnett elected to express his frustration with the lack of preparation time before the start of the shortened season by comparing it to a microwaved burrito.
"Timing is everything. Chemistry is something that you don't just throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something and then throw it on top of something, then fry it up and put it in a tortilla put in a microwave, heat it up and it give it to you and expect it to taste good. You know?" said Garnett. "For those who can cook, y’all know what I'm talking about. If y’all can’t cook, this doesn’t concern you."
Chef KG lingered straight into the postseason that year, comparing Boston's late-season chemistry to baking a cake.
"I always like to use baking a cake as an example. Nothing's going to come out of the first two minutes," said Garnett. "You have to sit there and wait on it, for y'all who know how to bake. Some of y'all don't know how to bake, but don't worry about it. Ask your mothers and fathers or something -- someone who knows how to bake. But it's very similar to that. You have to give it time for it to turn into what it's going to be. Time tells everything when the results come, and I'm just glad we're in a nice rhythm right now."
But that wasn't the first time KG had leaned on a cake analogy. At the end of a lengthy media session in February 2011, Garnett was asked what it's like to play for coach Doc Rivers.
"Playing for Doc is like coming home to a birthday cake, you know?" said Garnett. "Coming home to a birthday cake. Every day it's something you don't know -- it's going to be sprinkles, you know it's going to be sweet. You know it's going to be beautiful, but what you don't know is sometimes [they] might use too much salt in the recipe and you bite into the cake and get a salty taste. But you have to remember that every day is a birthday cake in here waiting on you. So if you can figure that riddle out, that's what it's like to play for Doc Rivers."
Garnett also compared Rivers' coaching to Cuba, Shaquille O'Neal's presence to fresh laundry and winning his first NBA title to knocking out a bully.
"You ever go to school and you had that bully mess with you every day? I know [reporters], ain't no tough guy here," said Garnett. "It's like that bully that you go to school every day and you know when you get out of your mom's or dad's car, you know you're going to see him as soon as you walk through the doors, he's sitting there waiting to pat your pockets and mess with you. Then one day you say, this is going to stop today.
"You walk in and as soon as he pats your pocket you lay his ass out and you see the expression on his face, and you're sort of kind of shook because, you know what, you just knocked the bully out and you don't know how he's going to come back. The next morning when you come in and he's not there, it's like a sigh of relief. It's like getting rid of the bully. It's like, I knocked the bully's ass out. I knocked his ass clean out. That's what it feels like. For y'all who ain't been bullied, y'all ain't got no idea what I'm talking about. But for y'all who have, you understand the story."
During a TNT broadcast after a win over the Orlando Magic in January 2012, an energetic Garnett compared the game to a bar fight, repeatedly yelling the phrase at sideline reporter Craig Sager (whom Garnett had previously told to "burn his suits.") Eventually, Garnett would congratulate Ray Allen on the birth of his son then tell his daughter, whom he nicknamed "Boo Boo," to go to bed. So worked up, Garnett eventually closed the interview by shaking his head and admitting, "I'm all over the map."
That intensity. It never faded. It was there for 48 minutes on the floor. It was there in practice. And he couldn't shake it when simply talking basketball.
We'll miss Garnett's presence on the court. Even in his final days in Minnesota, you could see how excited he was on the bench watching the Timberwolves' young core. Garnett probably has no desire to shuffle into a TV commentator role in his post-playing days, but it would be can't-miss TV.
I'm thankful I got to watch that show each day for six seasons in Boston.