Kevin Garnett is known as one of the most colorful personalities to have ever played the game of basketball, and he was a true enforcer, a player who wouldn't back down from anybody. His attitude towards the game was one of the things that allowed him to succeed at the highest level.
Even when he was younger, it seems as though Kevin Garnett never backed down from anybody, not even a legend like Scottie Pippen. The Undefeated has shared an excerpt from Garnett's recent autobiography where Kevin Garnett detailed the time that he faced off against Scottie Pippen when he was just 18 years old in 1995, and how that encounter convinced him to go straight from high school to the NBA.
When we get in through a side door, Mike Jordan is in there. Scottie Pippen is in there. We watch them play a couple of practice games. I’m just looking at them. I’m just studying them. I’m focused like a muthaf—a.
An hour goes by and a security guy yells at me. Looks like he’s waving me down to the court.
“Hey, you!” he screams.
“Yeah, you, big fella. Get down there.”
“Throw me my shoes,” I tell my man. I tie up my joints and hurry down to the court.
Pippen says, “You too young to be out here. You just a high school kid.”
Jordan says, “Let’s just go.” Then he points to me and says, “You guard Scottie.”
I’m thinking, Damn, I’m playing against my idol. I’m playing against a guy who’s coming off one of the best years of his career.
Right off, Pippen calls for the ball and does a stutter move before launching a big-ass three.
I’m like, That’s crazy, no way he could have made that shot.
But then my natural reflexes kick in. Boom! I dunk. Boom!
Scottie and I have a word. That just fires me up more. I’m thinking, I’m holding my own against one of the greats. As the game goes on, I’m gaining confidence. Ain’t backing down. No one’s making a fool of me. I’m competitive with these muthaf—as. I’m playing Scottie close, hard and tough. I’m in his face. I’m acting like every moment of my life has led me to this. Scottie may be Scottie, but right now he’s just a hooper I gotta beat to the ball. I’m on fire.
During a break in the game with me, Scottie, and Jordan, here comes Isiah “Zeke” Thomas, who’d been watching the whole thing. Ain’t crazy enough to be playing with two of my heroes. Zeke is up in that b—- too. I was trippin’.
I never asked him why he was there that day. He never asked me why I was there that day. We just were. One of those cosmic coincidences.
He came up to me and said something. There wasn’t a hint of hype in his voice. It was just a matter-of-fact, kind statement.
“Kevin,” he said to me, “you just took on Scottie Pippen. Scottie’s the best player in the league. Boy, you could play in the league right now.”
“What’d you say?” I asked.
“Boy,” he repeated, this time his eyes getting bigger, “you could play in the league right now.”
Maybe if it had been someone other than Zeke saying those words, they would have had less impact. But coming from Zeke, his words took the form of not only a prophecy but a blessing. A benediction.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked. “You ready to go to the league?”
Everything in my brain, body, heart, and soul said, “Yes!
It is crazy to think about how Kevin Garnett's journey to the league could have been different without this encounter. It seems as though going against Scottie Pippen allowed him to gauge his own abilities, and Isaiah Thomas helped him realize that he could play in the NBA. The rest is history, and we know how good Kevin Garnett became in the NBA, winning an MVP and a championship during his career. Sometimes, a fateful encounter can change one's viewpoint on things, and it seems as though that's what happened here.