There was little question that as Timberwolves fans watched Kevin Garnett from the late 1990s and into the 2000s that they were seeing a Hall of Fame player. So it came as no surprise on Saturday when Garnett, in his first season of eligibility, was selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame along with first-time finalists Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.
In fact, all eight finalists were elected to the 2020 Class during a show on ESPN that comes with the sports world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hall of Fame announcement usually comes during the Final Four.
Garnett was the fifth pick by the Timberwolves in the 1995 NBA draft out of Farragut Career Academy High School in Chicago and spent his first 12 seasons in Minnesota. He was selected to the All-Star Game 10 times while with the Wolves — he was named an All-Star 15 times in his career — and led the franchise to eight consecutive playoff appearances, including the Western Conference Finals in 2004. Garnett was named the NBA MVP that season.
“It’s the culmination,” Garnett told ESPN. “It’s the culmination, man. You put countless hours into this. You dedicate yourself to a craft. You take no days off. You play through injuries. You play through demise. You play through obstacles. You give no excuses for anything. You learn, you build. This is the culmination. All those hours … this is what you do it for, right here. For me, to be called a Hall of Famer, is everything.”
The Wolves traded Garnett to Boston in July 2007 and he won his only NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. Garnett was traded to Brooklyn before the 2013 season and returned to the Wolves in February 2015. He retired in September 2016. Garnett, 43, is one of four NBA players to win both the MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was a nine-time NBA All-Defensive first-team selection.
Glen Taylor and Garnett have had a rift in their relationship since he left the organization a second time but the team did issue a statement from the Wolves owner.
“This is an honor so well deserved,” Taylor said. “We congratulate Kevin on being selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. From the day we drafted him in 1995, we knew there was something special about him that Minnesota had never experienced before. I’ve watched Kevin grow on and off the court and will forever be grateful for his contributions to the Timberwolves organization. He was beloved by our fans in a way that only few players experience and will always have a place at Target Center. To be elected in his first year of eligibility validates the impact he had on basketball in Minnesota, the NBA, and around the globe. We are so happy for him to receive this recognition.”
Bryant, Duncan and Garnett combined for 11 NBA titles and 48 All-Star games between them. Bryant was killed with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in late January.
Also elected to the Hall are former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who won two titles; Tamika Catchings, a 10-time WNBA All-Star with the Indiana Fever; coach Kim Mulkey of three-time women’s NCAA champion Baylor; Barbara Stevens, a five-time Division II coach of the year from Bentley University; and Eddie Sutton, a four-time NCAA coach of the year. Patrick Baumann, a longtime executive with FIBA also was elected.
The induction ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 29 but there already is a plan for the induction to take place in October, if a delay is necessary because of the coronavirus pandemic.