This was in August 1997 Garnett's refusal made headlines. He was 21 years old! He turned down $102 million! What was he thinking? Officials at the Minnesota State Fair took down a cardboard cutout of him, fearing that people would deface it. To get out of the spotlight, Garnett went to stay with Fleisher for a while, at his home in Westchester County, north of New York City. He played basketball with Fleisher's 13-year-old son in the driveway, spent time on the Internet talking to strangers under an alias. Fleisher took the heat.
"Minnesota didn't have to sign him," Fleisher says. "They could have waited another year, then tried to sign him as a free agent. They had to guess what the market would be then, but if they guessed wrong, they were going to lose him."
"I thought he was gone," McHale says.
Taylor went back to the numbers. How much could the Timberwolves pay? Taylor made big deals in business. He wanted to make this deal. He was convinced he had to. The credibility of the franchise was at stake. He had to figure out the possibilities.
"Number one, I knew I'd have to overpay, because we're a small-market city," Taylor says. "Eric pointed out the economic advantages of playing in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. I understood that. I had to try to balance some of that.
"Number two, the deal made business sense. If our club had had a history of success, I probably wouldn't have pursued it. Here I was, starting out, telling people, 'Trust us, we'll get it done.' We're telling the fans, the sponsors, that we're serious. This was the wrong time for us to lose Kevin. He's young, he's a leader, he has charisma. He's the type of person who can lead a team to a championship."
The deadline to sign was Oct. 1. Negotiations between Taylor and Fleisher resumed a week before that. The talks went down to the last day. One hour before the deadline an agreement was reached. Fleisher called Garnett at Jimmy Jam's house. They were listening to the new Janet Jackson album, The Velvet Rope. "We've got a deal," Fleisher said. "You have to come down and sign it now."
"Hey, we're listening to Janet's album," the kid said. "Could we do it a little later?"
Six years, $126 million. The Minnesota Star Tribune estimated that if the money were laid out in $1 bills, end to end, it would stretch 12,113.3 miles, roughly halfway around the equator.