Legend Kevin Garnett retired this past week. He was renowned as much for his fanatical intensity as his tremendous skill. For as talented as Garnett was, and he is a 15-time All-Star, former MVP and former Defensive Player of the Year, it was his borderline psychotic level of seriousness and focus on the basketball court that helped make him as successful as he was. One of the testaments to his all-business attitude is the way he would block every ball thrown up at his net, even if it was after the whistle, which you can see in all its glory in this video.
It has been commonplace in the NBA for players to block shots after the whistle. It has long been routine for players to get up a shot even if it doesn’t count. It was Garnett, though, who first took offense to that. He started blocking every shot that got thrown up at his team’s net. No matter what the circumstances, he was going to get a hand on it. Since goaltending didn’t matter, there were no rules to keep Garnett from swatting the ball away. The message was clear: It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t count, you will not put a ball in our basket.
It was also a really smart way to keep opponents from finding their rhythm. Oftentimes NBA players who have clanged a few shots off the iron will try and sneak in an extra attempt to find their range after the whistle. That wasn’t possible against teams featuring Garnett, and — like most things with Garnett — it was contagious: his teammates started doing it, too. Then, the rest of the league started to follow suit.
That’s the intensity that Garnett played with his entire career. Lots of players have followed in Garnett’s footsteps in blocking after-the-whistle shots. It was Garnett who was crazy enough to take issue with it in the first place. That’s why he was so great.