Boston Celtics champion Kevin Garnett was known for his high-energy practice mentality. It’s reminiscent of Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan
Boston Celtics fans know Kevin Garnett is special. His energy, love for the game, and desire to compete culminated to help him lead the Cs to a title in 2008 along with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Tony Allen, their first title since the 1980s.
Garnett was a major reason the Cs won that title, it’s easy to think about the worrisome alternate timeline where a trade for Garnett doesn’t happen.
Garnett in the 2008 playoffs averaged 20.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. He capped off the year with a 26 point, 14 rebound performance in the final win over the Lakers to secure the Larry O’Brien trophy. Garnett also won Defensive Player of the Year that season.
As The Last Dance wraps up this weekend, the NBA world will have to say goodbye to the weekly dives into Michael Jordan’s psyche and what made him great as one of the greatest NBA players certainly of his era, but also of all-time.
KG and Jordan were eerily similar in their work ethic and their “practice harder than you play” mentality.
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett had a work ethic in practice that likened to Michael Jordan
On The Lowe Post, Danny Ainge told a story depicting Garnett’s work ethic and his desire to always give 100 percent.
“KG was at the stage where Doc [Rivers] felt like we need to manage his practice minutes so he would try to convince KG constantly to come sit down and rest. And KG just would not,” Ainge said.
Ainge went on to say that Garnett wanted to play every rep, every practice, especially if the team was scrimmaging.
The Cs needed Garnett, though. Joining the Celtics at 31 years old, he was past his youthful years. While still effective, they needed to be wise and strategic in how they approached utilizing his engine.
Trying to get him to actually stop practicing, though? Good luck.
“And so Doc one time forced KG out. ‘KG get off the court!’ Stood out stopped the play, ‘Get out!’ So KG went onto the other court and started running wind sprints,” Rivers said.
If you’ve ever run sprints, you know they’re avoidable, certainly not something most people or even high-level athletes would get to voluntarily when pulled out of practice to rest.
KG was different, though. Wind sprints were his way of getting back at his coach, not vice versa.
Very few players have the mentality to practice harder than they play. Jordan instilled it so as to get himself the muscle memory needed to simply let go during the real games and have his natural instincts take over. It’s a big reason why the game, no matter the gravity of the moment, always seemed to come so easily to him.
It should be no surprise that Garnett had trouble with the optics of appearing weak. In an ESPN article from Jackie MacMullan, Rivers once spoke to the reasoning for Garnett’s Jordan-like obsession with practice.
“Kevin had this belief that if you were the leader, you couldn’t miss one snap of practice,” Rivers said.
Garnett’s reply was that if the younger teammates saw him sitting, they would perceive weakness. One time, Rivers did pull him out of practice completely.
So, what did Garnett do?
According to MacMullan, he mirrored the player who replaced him in the scrimmage on the sideline. His every move, jumping for a rebound, establishing a defensive stance, Garnett did it on his lonesome adjacent to the court.
No one practiced quite like Michael Jordan, but Kevin Garnett brought very similar energy.