By Daniel Paiz
It’s always fascinating getting a first-hand account of a notable figure’s life, and “KG: A to Z” does a good job of approaching Kevin Garnett’s life differently. The NBA champion and all-time defensive rebounds leader had an obstacle-filled journey to the pros. It didn’t help that Garnett had both educational and personal hurdles that might’ve derailed a less-focused person.
What helps paint a full picture for Garnett is that he doesn’t start at the beginning and move things along chronologically. Instead, the 2004 NBA MVP treats his book as an encyclopedia, mapping out events and stories in his life from A to Z. While it jumps around a bit, there are times where a central timeline is mapped out. It sounds like it could be cluttered, but it’s well-organized. I kind of categorized entries of the book into two main areas of interest: life before the NBA, and life during/after the NBA.
Life leading up to the NBA
There’s something for everyone over the course of this man’s life. Garnett was nominated Mr. Basketball in both the states of Illinois and South Carolina during his high school career. A major reason this happened isn’t what you’d expect. Due to a fight between Garnett’s friends with another group of individuals, Garnett received a lynching charge.
Keep in mind, Kevin Garnett didn’t play basketball in the 1960s; he played in the 1990s. South Carolina decided that although he did not participate in the fight, he’d be charged just the same. Eventually the charge was dropped and removed from his record. But, that was long after he moved to Chicago and made a name for himself “In The Go” as it was known back then according to Garnett.
This is just one of a handful of anecdotes about KG’s upbringing. Some involve his mom and sister, others involve his friends and teammates. All of them offer a piece of the larger puzzle that helped shaped the all-time great most of us never knew prior to the league. The biggest takeaway for me from this period of time is that Garnett did as much as he could to learn from each situation.
Battling dyslexia and ADD/ADHD made school a bit harder, leading some basketball scouts to believe that’s why Garnett was choosing to go pro instead of heading to college. Garnett scored high enough to have been accepted into the basketball colleges he had dreamed about. That night during the draft, he decided to stick with his decision of going pro. These are just a few instances where he could’ve got stuck, and not persevered. Instead, he decided to keep pushing and keep going.
Life in the NBA
Sam Mitchell, Malik Sealy, and Paul Pierce might not be the first names you associate with Kevin Garnett. It wouldn’t be surprising that a majority of readers out there don’t know two of those three names. Yet, each one reflected a part of what KG learned while playing in the NBA. Mitchell was the consummate veteran, teaching KG how to be a teammate and how to operate in the league. Pierce was a guy KG played with prior to the NBA, and was a kindred spirit he could grow with over the course of their careers. But Sealy, Sealy was someone who overall had a huge impact. They say opposites attract and that’s what happened with these two. One fateful night changed everything:
Did I scream up to God? Why let this happen to a good man like Malik? Did I go crazy with grief?
No. And the reason I didn’t was cause I was scared of losing it. So rather than lose it, I used it. I used the grief to push me, motivate me, make me play harder in the spirit of a friend I loved so much.KG: A-Z, pages 168-169
May 20th, 2000 was the night Timberwolves forward Malik Sealy was killed at the hands of a drunk driver. The driver was driving the wrong direction, colliding with Sealy. Malik had been with Garnett, Mitchell and others celebrating KG’s 24th birthday before heading home. The sudden loss of Sealy made a huge impact on Garnett and that Minnesota basketball club.
Like many of us realize too late, there was a lot left unsaid that now can no longer be mentioned by KG to his old friend. Using that pain and loss is one way to work through things. But, this section was a necessary reminder that reaching out and reconnecting can never be done too soon. A somber moment in this book, it’s one of the most impactful as well.
Lessons are learned from both gain and loss. There are multiple ways of learning from said lessons. It just depends on what you plan to do after you’ve gained said knowledge.
For basketball fans this is a must-read. This hoops project does a really good job of giving a look into being an NBA rookie, a pro, and finally, a champion. It also digs into the league from the late 1990s until the early 2010s. There’s really nothing that holds this book back in my opinion.
If you are not a fan of stream of consciousness storytelling, perhaps you might have to adjust a bit to Garnett’s method of sharing. What helps to adjust is how conversational the book is. It feels like KG is speaking to me. One can hold out hope that I get to interview and chat with the basketball legend at some point. If it never happens though, this book is written to feel like a solid backup solution.