Sports Illustrated‘s Andrew Sharp makes the argument that Kevin Garnett was the most influential NBA player since Michael Jordan on SI.com this morning.
“He leaves basketball with the highest career earnings of all time,” he writes, “and historians would have an easier time cataloging the crucial elements of the basketball business KG didn’t upend.”
Sharp first mentions the draft. Not only was Garnett the first player drafted out of high school in decades, but even nowadays when elite prospects are forced to play a year in college due to an NBA rules change K.G. has an influence over how teams manage the draft.
“Every time an NBA team drafts a spindly teenager who’s nowhere near ready to play in the NBA, that’s KG,” he writes. “Anytime you hear analysts talking themselves into a 7’1 kid with the rough outlines of perimeter skills and a theoretical place in the paint, again, that’s a Big Ticket tribute.”
He then mentions Garnett’s 6-year, $126 million contract that spurred an NBA lockout.
“It was bigger than a max deal,” he writes. “KG didn’t only show teams that potential has value in the draft; he also showed future young players that their potential has superstar value on the open market. It was deeply polarizing at the time. Now, the Pelicans commit $127 million to Anthony Davis and nobody bats an eye.”
Then there is the way he played the game.
“He showed that a big man who could excel in space could be twice as dangerous as one who lived in the post,” he offers. “When future fours followed his lead, it opened up offenses all over the league.”
And, finally, there’s the superteam he helped form in Boston.
“The rise of the ’08 Celtics established a new blueprint for superstars who’d been stranded in dysfunctional organizations across the league,” he writes. “KG waited longer than most others have—he was in Minnesota 12 years before he left—but still, the success of Ubuntu clearly laid the foundation for everything we’ve seen since.”
The whole article is worth a read, if only as a reminder of how big of an influence K.G. was on the NBA and how much he, like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, will be missed.[Sports Illustrated]