BOSTON — The Boston Celtics played a surprise video during the first quarter against the LA Clippers on Thursday night, previewing Kevin Garnett’s No. 5 jersey joining the team’s retired numbers in the rafters at TD Garden.
A nearly two-minute video of Garnett highlights — set to the rap song “I Got 5 on It” by Luniz — played out of the blue. Toward the end, the video showed a banner with the message “COMING 2020-21 SEASON” followed by Garnett’s No. 5 in a banner and then a shot showing the 23 retired Celtics numbers on the banners hanging at the top of the Garden.
Garnett was not in the building for the announcement that his number will be retired, but the Celtics had a statement from their former All-Star big man, who is expected to be named as a finalist Friday along with Tim Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant to the star-studded 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class.
“I’m honored and thankful to have my number retired with the Celtics,” Garnett said in a statement that was shown on the big screen. “I will always have immense respect and appreciation for ownership, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, my past teammates and Celtic Nation!”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 14, 2020
Before the game, standing in the hallway of TD Garden, where he coached Garnett for six seasons from 2007 to ’13 with the Celtics, Clippers coach Doc Rivers reflected on his former player ahead of the anticipated HOF finalist announcement.
Rivers said Garnett will go down as one of the most unselfish superstars to ever play the game.
“I’ve often said about him, he’s the greatest superstar role player ever,” Rivers said. “He was a superstar, but he played his role for the team anyway, somehow. I don’t know how he did that, but he did it.
“He changed the culture of this franchise. He really did. We needed a guy like that to come to the franchise, and he did that and it’s still here. It hasn’t left since. That was all Garnett.”
The fifth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995 and the first player drafted out of high school since Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby were selected in 1975, Garnett averaged 17.8 points, 10 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game over 21 seasons.
Garnett, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone are the only players with 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists in their careers, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. During the 2002-03 season, Garnett led the Timberwolves in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. He is one of only five players to lead their respective teams in those five categories since blocks and steals became official in 1973-74.
The 2004 MVP won a championship in 2008, shortly after joining Rivers in Boston, and was a 15-time All-Star and 12-time All-Defensive performer.
“I think he was a great teammate,” Rivers said. “I don’t think that gets enough play. He was a phenomenal teammate. He’s all about winning. His IQ was incredible. It was off the charts.”
“Kawhi is nowhere near outward like Kevin, but there’s a lot of Kevin in him as far as how serious he approaches the game and sees the game and prepares for the game,” Rivers said. “That is very similar. And then PG, just watching him shoot and work reminds you of Ray in some ways in that way.
“He takes a lot of shots and then you wonder — you laugh with some of your young guys, with Ray, Ray would take 100, 200 more shots than everybody in the gym, and I would always think, how could you be better than Ray if he’s already a better shooter and he’s still taking more practice shots? It just makes no sense to me. I would tell the young guys that, and some of them never caught on to that, that you get better by working at it.”