Were Kevin Garnett‘s postgame actions on Christmas Day unnecessary? Yes. Was he out of line? Without a doubt. But should we expect him to tone down his emotion because other players don’t like it? Absolutely not.
Garnett is one of the more talented players in league history. His combination of size and skill is matched by few, and his career resume makes him a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But it’s the raw emotion with which he plays that makes him The Big Ticket.
It’s what drives him. It’s what makes him unique. It’s what helps elevate the play of his teammates. And, yes, it’s what irritates the heck out of some players, particularly those who go up against him.
Sure, criticizing Garnett’s behavior and tough-guy persona is warranted — if you’re an opposing player or a fan of another team. After all, who wants to go up against a guy who possesses so much arrogance, so much untamed emotion and so much in-your-face attitude? In many ways, Garnett has become the prototypical love-to-hate player. You love him if he’s on your team, but you love to hate him — or despise him — if he’s playing for the opposition.
It’s those players that help drive the NBA, though. In fact, it’s what helps drive sports in general. If everyone was a good guy, where would the intrigue be?
Obviously, there’s a line that can be crossed. And that line is when a player puts his thuggish behavior and his bad-boy image ahead of his on-court production. Garnett has had some slip-ups over the years, but to look at his career as a whole and label him a dirty player is a bit unjust.
Garnett’s Christmas Day altercation with Walker was dirty, certainly. In that instance, he crossed the line, and there’s no room in the game for grabbing someone by the throat. His elbow on Quentin Richardson in Game 1 of the Celtics’ first-round series two years ago also crossed the line.
But both were essentially in the heat of the moment, and Garnett’s emotional side overtook his logical side. It doesn’t mean we should excuse the incidents completely, but it also doesn’t mean we should view him as this irrational lunatic on the court.
He ruffles a lot of feathers, but I say ruffle away as long as you limit the amount of incidents like Sunday’s. The in-your-face aggression, which is inherently confrontational, should be fair game.
He’s “all bark and no bite.” That’s become the recent criticism surrounding KG. But in a sport in which contact is limited — even more so if Joey Crawford is officiating the game — what kind of “bite” do you want?
The “bite” is what almost got him in trouble Sunday, and it’s what got him in trouble during that first-round series in 2010 (KG was suspended for Game 2). The “bite” is also what hurts his teammates as much as the opposition, and it’s what separates a dirty player from simply a menacing presence on the court.
If KG were to start showing said “bite,” wouldn’t we ultimately be even more critical of his actions? It’s difficult to label someone an agitator in the NBA, but if ever there was one, Garnett certainly fits the bill.
The argument seems to be that KG targets players who are “less tough.” True or not, why should that matter? If he gets in the face of a “tough” player, is that going to change anything, except increase the chances of a physical altercation? That’s something the Celtics certainly don’t want.
Garnett might not be the most well-liked guy across the NBA, and he probably isn’t going to be exchanging Christmas cards with many players after his career is over. But as we enjoy what could be the final years of Garnett, let’s appreciate his passion, because that’s ultimately what it is: Passion.
We criticize players when they don’t have it. And, evidently, we sometimes throw criticism in the direction of those players who do have it. Perhaps Garnett has too much.
So KG, please keep your hands off people’s throats. Other than that, bark away.
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