KG, Fields relive glory days in Chicago

Kevin Garnett was special even in high school, and he and Ronnie Fields formed an imposing tandem. Courtesy of McDonald’s All American Games

CHICAGO -- Kevin Garnett's face lit up Tuesday when he saw a special visitor before the Boston Celtics' morning shoot-around.

It was former high school teammate Ronnie Fields. The reunion was 10 years in the making as their careers had gone in different paths since they last shared a basketball court, but as they threw their arms around each other it was apparent their friendship remained strong.

Garnett and Fields ruled Chicago basketball at Farragut Academy on the city's near west side during the 1994-1995 season. The duo seemed destined to continue their playing days in the NBA. Garnett was a freakish 7-footer, who could do it all. Fields, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard, possessed a 50-inch vertical and was a dunking and scoring machine.

But that’s not how it played out.

Garnett lived his dream as the No. 5 pick in the 1995 draft. From the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Celtics, Garnett has earned many awards, including MVP, and he won an NBA title.

Fields’ dream was decimated in a car accident, fracturing his neck as a high school senior. His career spanned 15-plus years in the CBA and overseas, but he never was able to join Garnett in the NBA.

When they were younger, they were busy with their careers, but they still found time to see each other. As their lives got more hectic on and off the court, they fell out of touch, as friends sometimes do. The last time they had seen each was about 10 years ago when Fields traveled to see Garnett play a home game with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

When Fields, who now lives in Chicago's western suburbs, showed up at the Moody Bible Institute's Solheim Center as the Celtics prepared to face the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night, Garnett was on the floor going through a shooting routine. Fields stood at the baseline and watched.

It was old days.

"That's what was weird," Fields said. "To sit there, it doesn't seem like that long. ... He's the same way as we were in high school. Ain't nothing really changed."

As Fields and Garnett talked and laughed, Celtics coach Doc Rivers -- who grew up just outside of Chicago -- walked up and immediately recognized Fields.

"I told them Proviso East would have kicked their (butts)," Rivers said after Tuesday's game with the Bulls. "They started laughing because they know that's true. But it was good to see Ronnie. It was good to see them together."

Rivers said his piece and got ready for practice. As Fields and Garnett talked some more, Fields could still sense the Chicagoan in Garnett. Garnett spent just the one season in the city after transferring from South Carolina, but Fields and their high school coach William "Wolf" Nelson believe it changed who he was as a person and player.

Fields said Garnett was quiet when they first met, and that's certainly not the case anymore as many NBA opponents can attest. They also witnessed Garnett began to play differently after battling in Chicago.

"You can tell playing in Chicago, that wore on him, especially bringing that toughness out of him," Fields said. "Not saying he wasn't tough before, but the difference between being from the South and here is we got your back. Here, you don't worry about those things. From there, his confidence continued to grow. That's why he's where he is now. It's not surprising to me."

Nelson said, "He has that dog in him. He got that in Chicago. He was a real good player, but he got that toughness. He sees it. We all see it."

Both of Nelson's former players still hold a special place in his heart. Since Fields retired last year, he and Nelson talk every week and have held a number of basketball camps together. Nelson and Garnett have continued a friendship as well and meet usually once a year.

When Nelson thinks about that 1994-95 season, he's glad he understood exactly what he had. It didn't turn out to be a state championship team, but it was a special squad that made it downstate.

"When I look back then, I thought I probably would never see a duo like them again," Nelson said. "I'm blessed to enjoy that time. It gives me goose bumps even now thinking of those guys."

As for Fields and Garnett, they promised each other they'd be in contact soon again and even discussed a basketball venture to share down the road. But even if life gets in the way of them meeting for another 10 years, Fields knows it won't matter to their friendship.

"For me, we'll always be tied together," he said.