Kevin Garnett was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday in his first-year of eligibility. The Boston Celtics announced in February that they will retire Garnett’s No. 5 at some point next season, meaning they will do so before the Wolves raise Garnett’s No. 21 to the rafters. Garnett spent six seasons in Boston, winning one title, but he spent 14 in Minnesota, getting the team to the Western Conference Finals and winning an MVP in 2004. What follows is an open letter to Wolves owner Glen Taylor and Garnett about a relationship that must be repaired.
Dear Glen and Kevin,
I’m guessing you two aren’t talking these days, but right now that doesn’t matter. All you have to do at the moment is read this and realize that while being stubborn and prideful might be a way to get ahead in the business and NBA world, there are times when it means everyone is going to lose. This is one of those times.
We know there was animosity between the two of you after Kevin was traded to the Celtics in 2007, and we know how hard the late Flip Saunders worked to repair that relationship upon his far-too-short return to a franchise he loved. Kevin, your first game back with the Wolves in February 2015 was a magical moment and one of the rare days in the history of this organization where it felt as if the franchise had a true purpose and fans again could be proud.
Looking back, and realizing how fleeting that feeling ended up being, in so many ways, only drives home the point why you two need to put any differences behind you — no matter how you arrive at that point. If that thrilling night against Washington had ended up being a shooting-star moment because Kevin was simply an aging player who was nearing the end of his career that would be one thing.
But the first thing many of us think about when reflecting on watching that game isn’t just Kevin. It’s how overjoyed Flip was to have his guy back. The player he took from a skinny 19-year-old and helped mold into an All-Star and, as we learned Saturday, a Hall of Famer. The second thing about that night that stands out — and you could tell this even if you were watching the game from a sports bar in Florida, as I was — was the fact that Target Center was alive.
Jiggly Boy and Program Guy were back for one night and suddenly it felt like the Wolves again had hope. The fans loved it because seeing you again, Kevin, was a reminder that you are the only true star player in the history of this team. Glen, you owned this team when Kevin arrived and might know this better than anyone.
Kevin, I know that your relationship with Glen began to sour again after Flip’s passing at the far-too-young age of 60 in October 2015. There clearly were some promises you didn’t think were delivered on but does that really matter now? And, Glen, you must understand that you need to do whatever is necessary to make this right. I don’t care if you two don’t like each other, but you both loved Flip. Do you think he would have had any interest in seeing this?
If you won’t do what’s right for Flip, then I suggest you take a look at the world around you. Kevin, you were just elected to the Hall of Fame in your first-year of eligibility along with two other guys who were in the same situation. Tim Duncan is one and the other is Kobe Bryant.
Kobe got into a helicopter with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, to go to a basketball practice this past January. A perfectly ordinary thing for him and an opportunity to continue working in a game he loved. We all know that everyone in that helicopter died that day, a reminder that even the most indestructible athletes can have it all end in the blink of an eye.
Just over two months later, the world (forget about sports) has come to a nearly complete halt because of a pandemic that is taking lives in an unbelievably cruel manner each day. And, yet, you two are bickering about what exactly? Money, pride, broken promises? Fix it.
If you won’t fix it for Flip, or because of the realization that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, then maybe think of the fans who welcomed back Kevin five years ago. Those fans have had little to celebrate that hasn’t involved Kevin. I’ve heard the Wolves have worked to try to get Kevin to return to Target Center to raise his No. 21 to the rafters but has it been enough? Glen, honestly, if it’s going to take you not being there the night of the ceremony you need to offer up that you won’t go. Kevin, I would hope you wouldn’t make that one of the conditions but this needs to get done and it needs to be done soon.
Target Center, like every other building and stadium in sports, is quiet right now. One day that won’t be the case. It will reopen and there will be games again. But make no mistake, we are getting nearly daily lessons about how precious and potentially brief life can be, and as we spend weeks that may turn into months reflecting on what we can do better, Glen and Kevin I urge one of you to pick up the phone and put these differences behind you. There almost certainly is blame on both sides so accept that blame and move on.
You don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to be adults. Both of you. Set the date for some point in what hopefully will be the NBA 2020-21 season for Kevin stand at center court and for his jersey to raise into the rafters beside the ones that honor Kevin’s late friend, Malik Sealy, and Saunders.
Do it for Flip, do it for the fans, do it because it’s the right thing to do. Most importantly, do it before it’s too late.