Kevin Garnett is back! Last month, the Minnesota Timberwolves welcomed the 6’11” forward-center back to their roster after his departure seven years ago, sparking excitement throughout the Twin Cities.
Garnett entered the NBA in 1995 straight out of high school and began his career with the Timberwolves. He led the team to eight consecutive playoff appearances, played in 15 All-Star games, and received numerous accolades, including the 20003 All-Star MVP league MVP (2004) awards, during his 12 seasons with the team.
After being traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007 (he won an NBA title with them a year later) and then to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, Garnett was traded back to the Timberwolves in February in exchange for forward Thaddeus Young.
In honor of his return and to thank Minnesota fans, Garnett gave away 500 pairs of tickets for his first home game back with the Timberwolves on February 25.
“I always felt Kevin Garnett’s heart was in Minnesota,” says Mark Rosen, sportscaster at WCCO Minnesota. “He represents the good old days of the Timberwolves, and I think fans appreciated all he tried to do here to win a championship before going to Boston to achieve that dream.”
Rosen added that Garnett’s purchase of 1,000 tickets “was a nice gesture and I think there will be many more nights like that to come.”
I was excited to hear about Garnett’s return and I wanted to hear what other people thought. So, I headed to sports-themed barbershop Final Cut in the Twin Cities to see what basketball fans there had to say.
“I honestly think it’s a power move for the team,” says barber Shaun Lamar Allen. “I could see a major difference in the team, and I think he’s going to help out the younger players and give them a little extra veteran leadership.”
T-Wolves fans are already noticing a difference with Garnett in the lineup.
“I think it’s amazing because when I went to the Clippers game the other night, there was a different vibe from the other games when he wasn’t there,” says barber and lifelong T-Wolves fan Johnny Po. “He was motivating the team.”
I also caught up with former NBA player Anthony Peeler, who played five seasons with Garnett in Minnesota. “The leadership he brings is going to be tremendous because they have a young team,” he says.
While the fan base here is delighted that Garnett is back, not everyone is sold on his ability to turn the Timberwolves around.
“I feel like it’s really not going to help them as much because he is toward the end of his career. I think it’s good for ticket sales, but that’s really it,” says barber J. R. Landry. “I don’t think he’s going to make a big impact on the season at all.”
But one thing is for sure: KG’s return has brought more fans out to games at the Target Center.
“Our attendance in the five games since KG arrived is averaging 18,131. Our attendance in the first 27 games averaged 13,660,” says Brad Ruiter, Vice President of Communications for the Minnesota Timberwolves. That represents a 33 percent increase. “We have had three sellouts in our last five home games after having just one the entire 2013-14 season.”
Garnett has definitely stood the test of time. Of all the players who were selected in the 1995 NBA draft, Garnett is the only one still actively playing.
“He is the most competitive athlete I have ever been around,” says Rosen. “I think he will be the same way if he moves into their front office in the coming years.”
Photo: Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images