Kevin Garnett began his NBA career as a cheery teenager with a competitive streak and physical tools unlike nearly anyone in the league before him. 21 years later, he leaves the league as its foremost profane monk, stretching over the elusive barrier between the divine and the obscene.
In his retirement, most of the world will revel in Garnett's indomitable spirit and fierce competitiveness. There's no shortage of stories that confirm that. But there's a side to Garnett that should never be lost: just how much of an utter nutjob he really was.
It takes a certain crazy to make it in the NBA. You have to presume at a precocious age that you're one of the best ~400 people in the world at something and devote your entire life to it. But Kevin Garnett took that morsel of crazy and turned it into a defining characteristic.
Here are just a few of the utterly insane things Kevin Garnett has said or done since he entered the league.
Kevin Garnett was all about food metaphors
Garnett absolutely loved comparing life chemistry to food chemistry. There's an alternate universe where Garnett became the first six-foot-thirteen celebrity chef and tripled Alton Brown's ratings on the Food Network. I like this universe just fine, though, because it resulted in quotes like this:
"If I was a Caesar salad, the croutons would be my friends, the lettuce would be my family and the dressing itself would be my mom," Garnett said. "Because you can have the lettuce and the croutons, and it can be called a Caesar, but until you have the dressing and it actually tastes like a Caesar….So my mom would be the dressing." - Garnett in 2000
"Playing for Doc is like coming home to a birthday cake, you know?" said Garnett. "Coming home to a birthday cake. Every day it's something. You don't know if it's going to be sprinkles, [but] you know it's going to be sweet. You know it's going to be beautiful. But what you don't know is, sometimes [they] might use too much salt in the recipe and you bite into the cake and get a salty taste. But you have to remember that every day is a birthday cake in here waiting on you. So if you can figure that riddle out, that's what it's like to play for Doc Rivers." - Garnett in 2011
Timing is everything, and chemistry is something that you don't just throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, then throw it on top of something, then fry it up and put it in a tortilla and put in a microwave, heat it up and give it to you and expect it to taste good. You know? For those of you who can cook, y'all know what I'm talking about. If y'all can't cook, this doesn't concern you. - Garnett in 2011
"I always like to use baking a cake as an example. Nothing's going to come out in the first two minutes. You have to sit there and wait on it. For y'all who don't know how to bake… Some of y'all don't know how to bake. Don't worry about it. Ask your mothers and your fathers or someone who knows how to bake." - Garnett in 2012
"How you would write a story is different from how you would write a story or how this lady would write a story. You might be able to chug a gallon of milk quicker than she can. I don't know. We all have our strengths, is the point I'm making." -Garnett in 2014
…And as a result took food seriously…
Just ask Mason Plumlee, the world's tallest flight attendant.
…Which makes sense, because he metaphorically bit opponents a lot.
Garnett tapped into his inner bath-salt connoisseur on two different occasions, once fake-biting Dwight Howard prior to a free throw, and once chomping at Joakim Noah on an inbounds play.
When asked about the swipe at Noah, Garnett astutely noted that he possessed a biting skillset, and shouted out Mike Tyson in the process.
He put himself in "time-out" like he was a child
Courtesy of Howard Beck's oral history of Garnett's career:
Doc Rivers: Before Game 6 in the (2008) Finals when we beat the Lakers, I walked in the locker room, and Kevin gets [hyped] up to where sometimes he goes over the line. You could see it. I had him come in my office and sit. He's sitting there five, 10, 15 minutes. I don't say a word. I just go back to work. He's moving around and finally he says, "I'm in a timeout. I'm in timeout." I didn't even respond. You could hear him: "Phew" (exhaling). But you think about a guy who has been in the league that long and is still that jacked up for a game that you literally have to calm him down. That's my favorite story.
He starred in this weird-ass ad for ESPN the Magazine with Stephon Marbury
"To be tasteful."
His jump shot was his booty call
Garnett had a big game for his aged standards against the Golden State Warriors in January 2014, hitting five of seven shots and sealing the win with a steal on a pass from Stephen Curry.
In the locker room after the win, Garnett hung in the private player's area out of sight for several minutes, unintelligibly screaming with joy at anyone who passed.
When he finally emerged from his screaming vortex, Garnett was asked about his jump shot. He did what any insane person would do: compared it to a late "u up?" text.
"When I go to dial her up, I want her to pick the phone up," he said. "Tonight I dialed, and she was right there, answering like you're supposed to."
He headbutted his wall because singers on Making The Band weren't competitive enough
Also from Beck's oral history of Garnett's career:
Tyronn Lue: A lot of people do all their howling on the court and they're faking just for attention, but what he does is genuine. So one day we were at his house and we were watching Puff Daddy's show Making the Band, and in one of the scenes, some new guys came in and were trying to sing and were trying to compete against the guys who had been there. And KG just got so hyped, "Motherfucker, you've got to stand up for yours! You've got to fight! Motherfucker, you've got to come together!" He's going crazy, he's sweaty. And he just head butts the wall and put a hole in the wall of his house.
Which also makes sense, because he used his head like he was testing the density of nearby objects
And basket stanchions…
And Dwight Howard.
Two important parts of that last clip. Firstly, after the fracas died down just a smidge, Garnett tried to sneak around the back and get into it with Howard again, like everyone would all of a sudden take three seconds off and let them fight again. Only a crazy person thinks that way.
Secondly, watch Howard mouth "what are you going to do?" at Garnett RIGHT before Garnett knocks D12 in the cheekbone. Well, Dwight, you got your answer!
He screamed "I'M GOOD! I'M GOOD!" over and over at himself
At first blush, there's something oddly touching about this video. It features Garnett, at 38 years old, eons past his prime, too old to be jumping around like a sugar-addled kid, spending an entire possession on New Year's Day—AKA "NBA-Wide Flu-Like Symptoms Day"—psyching himself up like it's the first quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
"I'M GOOD!" he screams, getting into position to defend Channing Frye. "I'M GOOD!" he continues, possibly both to get in Channing Frye's head and to keep his own juices flowing. "I'M GOOD! I'M GOOD!" over and over again, until Frye can do nothing but loft a hapless airball. "I'M GOOD!" he screams, louder than any time before, convincing himself and the world of what he wanted to believe all along.
Or maybe Garnett just really hated Channing Frye.
And if he ever needed a pick-me-up?
"Too much coffee and Gatorade. It's a hell of a mix. If you're ever tired in the morning, just try that mix, and tell me what you think." - Garnett in 2005
We will never have another Kevin Garnett.