February 10th, 2003
As a Timberwolves fan in 2003, I was desperate for any accolades that my team could earn. The franchise was 14 years old at that point, and its greatest acheivement was Isaiah Rider’s victory in the 1994 Slam Dunk Competition. So with a championship really out of the question, my goals for the team were twofold: 1. Get out of the first round of the playoffs. 2. Have Kevin Garnett become the All-Star Game MVP.[ad2] I know that you’re supposed to shoot for the moon with the idea that if you miss, you’ll at least end up among the stars. But after what was then six straight years of getting bounced out of the playoffs early, these two goals were about as high as I could set my expectations. With that being said, it would still take another year before the Wolves finally made a playoff run. But thankfully Kevin Garnett came through with 37 point performance that kept the season from being a complete disappointment.
The 2003 All-Star Game in Atlanta was billed as Michael Jordan’s last. And if it weren’t for Kevin Garnett, it may have very well been a storybook ending for the best player in history. His Airness nailed a jumper with 4.8 seconds left in the first overtime to put the East up by two, which appeared to be a game-winner. But last second free-throws by Kobe Bryant brought the All-Star Game into it’s first ever doulbe OT. After that it was all Garnett scored seven straight points to seal the game and earn the MVP award.
As a true student of the game, Garnett was very hesistant to take the spotlight off of Jordan. After going on a tear early in the game, KG asked Gary Payton if he should lay off and let Michael have his final moment. Payton and his other teammates insisted that Garnett play his heart out. And he did just that, putting on a performance that will make Jordan’s final All-Star game go down as one of the best in history.
For someone who had spent his entire career in the shadow of others, it was fitting that Garnett, still so humble and reluctant to take the glory, finally had his moment in the sun. In many ways that night in Atlanta was a passing of the torch, as Jordan left the game and Garnett replaced him as the game’s best ambassador. I think you’d be very hard-pressed to make an argument that any other NBA star has shown the character, work-ethic, generosity, humility, and leadership that Garnett has. When you think of everything that’s good in sports, Kevin Garnett is absolutley near the very top of the list. Winning that MVP award finally gave an incredible athlete his moment to shine. And he’s been getting brighter every day since…