Like many NBA fans, Joakim Noah had posters of former Boston Celtics great Kevin Garnett on his wall growing up.
The only difference is, the Memphis Grizzlies center not only made it to the league to play against Garnett, but also was subjected to the notorious trash-talker’s banter.
“I don’t think he remembers because I think the story meant a lot more to me than it did to him, you know?” Noah said. “I remember because I had KG posters on my wall, I had a (expletive) KG jersey growing up, so this is the story. This is what happened.”
Noah painted the picture of the first time they faced one another during the 2007-08 season, his rookie year and Garnett’s first with Boston.
With the Celtics up about 30 points in garbage time, the former Chicago Bulls big man said he worked up the courage to start a conversation with Garnett about trainer Joe Abunassar, whom they’d both worked out with.
“I remember asking him a question about, like ‘You going to work out with Joe?’ I was just trying to be cool,” Noah explained. “I just wanted to say something to my idol, and he just looked over like, ‘Yo, who the (expletive) you talking to? Who the (expletive) do you think you’re talking to?'”
Noah explained that he instantly regretted saying something during the game, and kept quiet the remainder of the match. His silence led Garnett to believe he was soft, and the insults got louder.
“From that moment on, I swear to God, I’m going at him,” Noah said. “Every single time we play, we are going at it.”
That’s exactly what happened, as Garnett and Noah became heated rivals over the next few years.
It was an important moment for Noah, who played nine years in Chicago before going on to suit up for the New York Knicks and Grizzlies. He’s currently a free agent eager for another opportunity.
“It changed my career,” Noah said. “That moment changed my career because from that moment, on I learned that there is no love in battle, and this is competition. At the end of the day, I’m trying to rip your (expletive) head off, you’re trying to rip my head off, let’s go. I’m trying to win just as bad as you’re trying to win. I’m not trying to make no friends. That moment right there changed everything.”
Garnett also learned he couldn’t act like a fan of his competition early in his career, and that mentality led him to a legendary career worthy of getting his jersey retired by the Celtics at some point during the 2020-21 season.