BOSTON — Standing in the hallway of TD Garden, where he coached Kevin Garnett for six seasons with the Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers reflected on his All-Star big man who is set to be announced as a finalist for the Hall of Fame on Friday.
Rivers says 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.”
On Friday, Garnett, Tim Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant are locks to be named as finalists for the star-studded 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class.
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,” said Rivers, who coached Garnett for six seasons from 2007 to ’13. “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.”
Also Thursday, the Garden showed a Garnett highlight video during a break in the first quarter that ended with a preview of Garnett’s No. 5 joining the other retired numbers in the rafters in the 2020-21 season.
“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!”