Rob Gronkowski’s departure from the New England Patriots offered a reminder: There sure have been some fascinating athletes to come through this region.
As such, NESN.com is taking local fans on a lighthearted trip down memory lane by highlighting 10 “charismatic characters” in Boston sports history. You know, those enthralling players with big personalities who captivated audiences for reasons beyond their on-field performance.
Kevin Garnett is one of the most intense players in NBA history.
The 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame selection was a machine on the court, earning 15 All-Star selections and four first-team All-NBA nods. He came to Boston ahead of the 2007-08 season to team up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to form the “Big Three,” and the trio quickly guided the Celtics to an NBA title in their first season together.
Despite spending the first 12 seasons of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and getting traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, Garnett widely is remembered for his six seasons in Boston, during which the Celtics were a force in the Eastern Conference. But, he’s not just remembered for his rebounding, shooting and defensive prowess.
Garnett was one of the most passionate Celtics to play the game, which landed him in some verbal altercations. KG’s mouth often was the root of controversy, as he took trash talking to a new level — likely crossing the line at times — on and off the court.
Garnett and Carmelo Anthony once had a feud after what is believed to have been an insult directed at Anthony’s wife in connection with Honey Nut Cheerios. KG also was known for letting loose during interviews, with a few of his more fired-up occasions — “The Bar Fight” and “Burn It, Craig” — directed at Craig Sager.
The Big Ticket’s passion escalated tensions within the Celtics organization, too. When the second unit blew what had been a large lead against the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 5, 2008, Garnett wasn’t happy about going back in. During a timeout, KG grabbed Glenn Davis, pulled him into the huddle and chewed him out to the point where Big Baby later was found crying on the sidelines.
When Allen left Boston for the Miami Heat, Garnett felt so betrayed that he didn’t even acknowledge the sharpshooting guard the first time they competed against one another the following season. The Heat, of course, were a primary rival at the time, but there’s still some bad blood between Allen and his former Celtics teammates.
If Garnett was one thing, it was fiery — well beyond most.
The passion poured out of Garnett after the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals, prompting him to scream, “Anything is possible!” in a truly iconic KG moment.
“They say no matter how hard you work, there’s always someone, somewhere working harder then you. Guess what. I’m that someone.”
“He never cheated the game. You know, you see some talents in the game with great potential. But that?s one thing you can say about Kevin Garnett is he never, ever cheated one second in practice, in the game. He gave everything he could every single second. And you got to respect that. There?s so many lost talents that we see never reach their potential like he did every single night.”
— Pierce, reacting to Garnett being named a HOF selection.