Q&A with Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett says he's "infatuated" with the skill level of top soccer players
Garnett takes pride in carrying on the Celtics' tradition of winning championships
KG explained how Boston came together as a group in its title-winning season
Kevin Garnett loves Europe. He also loves soccer. If he could be a 6-foot attacking midfielder, he'd probably be the happiest guy in the world. But that doesn't necessarily mean he would take a big-money contract to play basketball overseas and see his favorite European club teams up close.
Well, not yet anyway.
"Maybe when I'm 40," he said. "When I'm sky-hooking every third shot, that might be something I'll do."
I recently caught up with Garnett while he was promoting NBA 2K9, a video game that features the Celtics' All-Star forward on the cover. Garnett, 32, discussed his love for soccer, the significance of winning his first NBA championship, what life is like as a father and how much longer he plans to play.
SI.com: There's a big fantasy basketball component in NBA 2K9, which is great for those who want to fantasize about being Kevin Garnett or playing for the Celtics. Is there anything that you would fantasize being if life were a game?
Garnett: That's a good question. I would want to be a superhero or a soccer player. I'm infatuated with soccer, with their skill level and what they're able to do, and obviously a superhero brings a lot to the table. I mean, you'd be super and a hero. You can't beat that.
SI.com: OK, I get the whole superhero thing. But why soccer?
Garnett: It's a giving sport where you have to play collectively to do well. I like that. I've always looked to set that man up but at the same time have the ability to score. I'd be like [Brazilian star] Kaká. You know Kaká sets up people, but at the same time, his skill level is uncanny and he can score himself. I'm big into being diverse. Diversity is good. I feel that if you have the option of saying you can do five-to-six different things and be great at all of them, that says a lot about you.
SI.com: So if you're going to be Kaká on the soccer field, who would you be in the superhero world?
Garnett: Wolverine. I don't know how super he is, but if you followed his comics, you'd know he has a great story -- how he's able to refurbish himself when he gets hurt and how he has titanium come out of his hands. At the same time that he has that inner beast in him, he's Logan, he's a conservative person who is chill. He's a human being and he doesn't always like to bring that out. If I was to mimic someone, it would probably be him.
SI.com: I was talking to Barry Sanders recently and I thought of you. He told me that it hurt so much to lose with the Lions that he had to leave the game rather than continue if he couldn't go to a contender. Before you got traded to Boston, did you ever get to that point in Minnesota where you lost the love of the game or thought you couldn't continue if you didn't think you had a chance to win?
Garnett: My mentality is not to bitch and moan about things but try to fix it. You have to start with yourself and be real with yourself -- even if you have to talk to the reflection -- and that was my perspective. Behind closed doors, I would speak personally to management about my different views, but publicly I would never come out and be a distraction. At the end of the day, you're responsible for yourself and your actions and that's all you can control. So rather than be frustrated with what you can't control, try to fix the things you can. That was my mind-set.
It never challenged my love, but it tested my loyalty. It made me look deeper into people and what they said versus what they were doing. When I think about my Minnesota days, those are the kinds of things that come up. When I got to Boston, right away I saw the difference. It wasn't like apples to oranges, it was more walnuts to cashews or something. It was a big difference in how they did things. They were going to make sacrifices to make this team a contender. They put the pieces together to bring the tradition of winning back to the city.
SI.com: You really embraced being a Celtic quickly. I saw you kissing the floor, kissing your jersey, talking to former players like Bill Russell. When did you first start to appreciate what being a Celtic meant?
Garnett: The first time I ever went into the Garden -- at the time, it was called the Fleet[Center] -- was 1995. You could just see the tradition once you walk in there. To go there and be a part of that, you feel it. It's kind of eerie but you really do feel it. You come in and you hear the past greats speak and you hear stories of yesteryear and you feel that obligation. You feel a responsibility at that moment as it's being told to you. It's something that if you really [care] about it, you embrace it. You pick it up and carry it forward for the group of guys and the players that did it before you.
When you put that jersey on, you're almost representing the way of life. "Celtic Pride" is a way of life to a lot of people, how they see the world. [The South African concept] ubuntu, which we adopted [as the Celtics' slogan of unity last season], is very parallel to that: giving yourself up for the next person and knowing that person is being all he can be to help you be all you can be. When you really wrap your arms around it, that's really what it's all about. It's what team is about. It's what sports should be about. Obviously, there are individual parts to it, but basketball isn't an individual sport.
When I sit back and think about it, there's a lot that goes with putting that green on with Celtics in the front. So to go out and win the championship means a lot. It means that you're able to call yourself the best, but by the same token, you're also able to carry on this tradition. It's a lot that comes with putting on that jersey, and if you ignore it, it means you're not in tune or you don't know your history.
SI.com: How did Doc Rivers' introducing you guys to ubuntu change the team? Did everyone buy in at first to the philosophy?
Garnett: When you get a group of guys with a variety of different personalities, it's always hard. You're going to have a group over here that's going to see the world how they see it, and you're going to have a group over here that's going to see the world how they see it. Ubuntu brought all those worlds together and made a group that was semi-selfish or saw things in a selfish way see it in an overall perspective.
You had to understand right away that this is going to work because you're going to leave your ego outside the door and you're going to come in here and sacrifice something that you love for something that's greater, something that you have played for your whole life. If you do that, you will be successful. You can't argue with it because once we embraced it and actually made it a way of life, the obvious started to happen all the way up to us winning the championship.
SI.com: Is it more gratifying knowing that you were traded to one of the worst teams in the league and was a key member in turning it into a champion, as opposed to being traded to a team that was already a championship contender and winning a ring that way?
Garnett: You don't want to jump on something that already has momentum and is doing well. The fact that we took this team from where it was is special. Now we're trying to create our own legacy and put a couple of titles together. That's the goal now.
SI.com: You know years down the line when they do a documentary on your life, screaming "Anything is possible" after winning the championship will be right near the top. What did that phrase mean to you?
Garnett: It was the culmination of everything on top of just thinking, Man, we did it. When I work out, I talk to myself and say that if you visualize, you can see it, you can be it. Sometimes I talk to the point where I can see it. This seemed far out at times, but I kept thinking, Man this is definitely possible. If you keep grinding and putting your feet in the dirt and just continue to push hard, you can make some waves.
SI.com: My dad once said that I'll never truly know how much he loves me until I have a child of my own. Has that been true for you? Does your life have a different meaning since you became a father in April?
Garnett: I don't usually speak about family because I like to keep that stuff private, but I can say from my experiences that your dad is so right. You don't want anything to happen to them and you want to be their security blanket. If you can protect them from everything, you will. Your father telling you that is probably one of the best things you'll ever hear because you're going to know the day, the minute, the second when you have a kid of your own what he's talking about.
SI.com: Now that you have entered this new chapter of your life as a champion, a husband and a father, do you think about how much longer you want to continue playing in the NBA?
Garnett: Well, contractually I have four more years. [Laughs] That's what it is. After four years, I can't tell you what state I'm going to be in. But at the current state I'm in, I plan on doing all four of those and having fun in those four years and then that will be it. I can definitely say that winning and having a kid brings you to another place in your life. I'm a lot more comfortable with myself and a lot more confident. I'm at a different stage, and it just so happens that it all came together around the same time.