Standing On The Shoulders Of A Giant
Usually the title expression is in reference to when someone performs something great, but defers the credit to those that came before him to make it possible. If memory serves me correctly, it was Isaac Newton who used the expression (in it’s plural form) to honor those that made his discoveries possible. In this instance, I use it to describe the Timberwolves game 7 against the Kings. Kevin Garnett’s teammates jumped on his back, letting the giant carry them to victory. It was like Pippin & Merry on the back of Treebeard.
Garnett played the entire 4th quarter, and at one point had his team’s last 13 points. His contribution wasn’t limited to just scoring, since he also was the T-Wolves main rebounder (21), shot blocker (5), and even played backup point guard when Cassell was on the bench. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player do it all, like Garnett. He is simply a unique player that comes around once a generation.
Only considering the players I’ve seen in my lifetime, there is little comparison to Garnett in terms of skill set. Shaq is a dominant player on his own, maybe the most dominant player with the smallest skill set. Shaq is nearly unstoppable under the hoop, but his ability diminishes as he travels further from the basket as to where his free throw shooting is embarrassing. Shaq fancies himself as a skilful dribbler for a man his size, but only in Shaq’s mind does he have the handle of Garnett.
Tim Duncan is another 7 footer who opts to play PF instead of C. Unlike Shaq, the Big Fundamental has decent range for a player his size, but he doesn’t have Garnett’s shooting touch. Like Shaq, Duncan’s free throw percentage is a weakness at times, with a career low this year of 59.9%, something that hasn’t afflicted Garnett (career 76.1%).
Of the active power forwards, Karl Malone might be the most similar on offense, but he still doesn’t have Garnett’s dribbling ability or shooting range. In addition Malone was never the defensive player that Garnett is.
In fact there is only one player (that I’ve seen play), that has as diverse abilities as Garnett: Magic Johnson. Johnson, in case you were born yesterday, was a 6’9 point guard. Magic’s blend of efficient scoring (53% eFG), passing (11.2 APG – #1 all time), and rebounding (7.2 RPG) made him an offensive machine that earned him 3 MVPs and 9 All-NBA First Team honors. Magic was probably the best passer I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
My point is not to compare the two individuals in that manner, because despite their wide range of talents, they play much different roles. When Magic retired (for the first time), the game lost one of it’s greatest and most entertaining players. Today’s generation that will grow up never have seeing Johnson run one of his trademark fast breaks will be missing something, as I’m sure I am, never having seen Oscar Robertson or Cousy showcase their gifts. However watching last night’s game, Kevin Garnett gave today’s generation something to brag to their kids about.