Eight years ago, Kevin Garnett was right where LeBron James is today.
He was the league MVP, he was simply dominant on both ends of the floor and his legacy was more than secure as one the NBA’s all-time greats. He was consistently being mentioned as a top 10 talent in the history of the game after coming to a man’s league straight from being a high school boy nine years earlier.
Like James today, however, Garnett had plenty of haters back then. He did not have a ring, was oft-criticized for lacking the fortitude to take a big shot in the clutch and was generally regarded as a guy who just didn’t “get it.”
Boston fans today would barely recognize 2004 Garnett in terms of the overall package, though they are getting a small glimpse of the on-court version in this year’s postseason. Of course, Boston fans at the time had little reason to watch the NBA as the C’s placed the likes of Marcus Banks, Jiri Welsch and Ricky Davis on the parquet night-in and night-out.
So, it is still quite strange for many Celtics fans to think of Garnett as the undisputed best player in the game. Same as it is strange for Garnett’s detractors from 2004, who believed Garnett was nothing more than a 7-foot-tall punk, particularly when compared to the classy, ring-bearing Tim Duncan, to see Garnett beloved in Boston as the wise, old, lovable veteran looking for his last chance at glory.
Garnett has been particularly chatty during the last few months. He is as brash as he’s ever been when he steps to the postgame podium. But it’s a lovable brashness now.
It’s funny what a few years will do for one’s public perception, particularly in sports.
It’s certainly strange to think of LeBron as someone who will one day be embraced by the masses. Perhaps, LeBron will have himself a throwback series in the 2020 postseason and we will then finally be okay with his snarling and general cockiness and will just be ready to simply say, “that guy was one of the best we’ve ever seen.”
Getting behind the old, struggling warrior is an easy storyline to embrace.
Celtics fans understand that now.