By Nick Adamopoulos –
It is inevitable, that over the next week the legacy of former Celtics star Kevin Garnett will be repeatedly discussed. On March 13th the Celtics organization will retire Garnett’s number 5 jersey to the rafters of TD Garden. He will join his former teammate Paul Pierce as the two most recent players who have had the distinction of a jersey retirement by the Celtics.
Garnett played for the Celtics for a brief time. Following his trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett wore green and white for six seasons. However, over those six seasons, Garnett was able to do something that few superstar Boston athletes have been able to do; he was able to embody what the fans of Boston want in their stars. Tom Brady won the rings, Paul Pierce was the face of a franchise, David Ortiz united a city, but it was Garnett who defined Boston.
Garnett immediately made his presence felt within the organization following his trade. He was the catalyst that bound Pierce, Allen, Rondo, and Perkins together. He was the one who before every game, worked himself into a sweat and then walked over to the hoop and headbutted the padding making sure that the fans got excited for tipoff. Garnett was the player who ran up and down the court nightly screaming at his teammates, screaming at himself after a bad play, and swearing at the opposing players reminding them that he was on the floor. Garnett came to Boston to win, and in Boston winning is all that matters.
There was more to Garnett than the man we watched lace up his sneakers for those six seasons. Garnett came to an organization rich with history, and immediately embraced the pressure that history placed on its players. He understood what the championship banners mean in Boston; that every pennant at Fenway, banner at Gillette, and banner hanging in the rafters of TD Garden represented a player’s and team’s legacy to a storied fan base. A player’s true legacy in Boston is not defined by how many wins or points they had, it was and always will be defined on whether they ended a season with a championship parade, in the duck boats, down the streets of Boston. Garnett built relationships with the former Celtic greats, learned the legacies of those that came before him, and held himself and his teammates responsible to continue that Celtic legacy moving forward.
Garnett solidified his legacy with a championship in his first year with the organization. He was the heart and soul of Doc River’s Ubuntu mantra. And at the end of his first season as a Celtic, when he, Pierce, and Allen each won their first championship, it is the image of Garnett, with confetti falling from the sky, screaming “anything is possible” that is engrained as the ultimate image of that championship team.
Garnett wasn’t drafted in Boston, nor did he grow as a player in Boston, but the city and franchise can easily say that Garnett is Boston. Garnett, like a blue collared New Englander, embraced hard work and getting his hands dirty, which was always evident when he was on the defensive end of the floor. He ran up and down the court with a scowl on his face every game but took time to enjoy himself when Gino made its way onto the jumbotron.
Kevin Garnett’s legacy to the fans of Boston is very different than that of Tom Brady, Paul Pierce, and David Ortiz. For Garnett that likely doesn’t matter. Because Garnett’s legacy is one of hard work, winning, and putting the team and city first, and for the fans and for Garnett that is likely enough. The number 5 jersey will hang from the rafters forever, alongside Pierce, Russell, Bird, and the other greats. For a player who has embraced the history of the sport and organization, there is no bigger honor. Garnett’s legacy is honored on Sunday, but his true legacy should be that Kevin Garnett defined what being a superstar in Boston and New England truly means, something that the fanbase won’t forget.
Thank you, Kevin, for rejuvenating a franchise and for embodying New England.