Kevin Garnett is an asshole and I love him for it.
Countless words have been spent in recent years lamenting the loss of rivalry (and flat-out hate) among athletes and franchises during the days of free agency and big dollar contracts. Not the case with KG.
“Da Kid’s” one of the final few athletes of an ’80s mold. A throwback who views anyone not wearing his team’s colors as the enemy. When Ray Allen left the Celtics and Garnett slighted him in the media and later snubbed Allen at their first meeting, I smiled a warm, healthy smile. Who cares if they once shared locker space and won a chip together? If you are not for KG, you are against KG.
But even the Garnett knows love and respect sometimes runs deeper than colors, checks and anything else. Last night, the Celtics faced the Houston Rockets, who are coached by Kevin McHale. The legendary McHale who will always be a Celtic no matter where the NBA road takes him. The same McHale who just returned to the sidelines just five days ago after being away for almost a month since November 10. His leave of absence was prompted by the illness of his 23-year-old daughter Sasha’s complications with Lupus, a battle she lost two weeks later.
The Celtics lost to Rockets 101-89 but that’s less of the story than the moment shared by McHale and Garnett. Back in ’95, the then Wolves GM McHale used one of his first ever draft picks on the then straight-out-of high-school phenom Garnett in the first round. As the story goes, they’ve maintained a strong relationship ever since from their time spent in Minnesota. And, as math would suggest, a teen KG probably meet a adolescent Sasha McHale somewhere along the line. Even after their time together ended, the respect didn’t and I can imagine Kevin and Kevin maintaining contact over the years and KG asking “So, how are the wife and kids?”
Last night, the ritual postgame handshake seemed to take on larger meaning as the two Celtics – former and current – shared an extended embrace on the sideline. McHale’s visibly emotional while Garnett seems Chuck Norris tough. But that’s because it’s all we can see from that brief moment. We don’t get to hear what’s said between the two or how Garnett may react once the cameras are gone. But gauging by McHale’s expression, the few seconds meant something more for those two.
The moment took me back to watching and listening to Brian Scalabrine explain to Bill Simmons why Garnett stood as the “most hated opponent in the NBA but probably the most loved teammate in the NBA.” I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the clip yet but I’ll say this: If you love assholes, take a look at it. Watch it too even if you don’t like assholes but still have a respect for rivalry and athletes who understand what it means. Between the two clips, I walked away with even more admiration for KG.
While others detest the guy, I find Garnett easy to like. I love assholes.