Kevin Garnett has a unique spot in NBA history. He was the first player to be drafted straight out of high school after 2 decades in 1995. Garnett was incredibly skilled as a youngster, so much so that he impressed Isiah Thomas after playing in a workout game alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Garnett was also the ultimate competitor, though he showed no mercy on the court. His trash talk was so bad it left an impact on the players he played against that they still remember to this day. So for him, reconciling his combative nature with his empathy for players that came straight from high school was an interesting experience.
Garnett explained in an interview with GQ what it was like for him to go up against these players, explaining that players that had the same trajectory as him had a special place in his heart.
“I had a special place for n***as that came out of high school, just in case they wanted to talk to me, if they wanted to build,” Garnett said. “And it was hard because, you know, when you're battling against a young Dwight [Howard] or you're battling against a young Kwame [Brown] or a young Darius Miles, or even a young LeBron, you're trying to keep a certain level of respect, but then you don't want to be so comfortable that a motherfucker is comfortable with you, if you understand what I'm saying.”
It's safe to say that Garnett managed to find the fine line eventually, he ended up becoming an inspiration to many of those that came after him. And LeBron James and Dwight Howard both have gone on to enjoy Hall of Fame level careers, just like Garnett did. It's an interesting paradox trying to support someone one competes with, and KG managed to do it in his unique way.