Stempak: NBA culture has lost its edge
R.J. Stempak | Tuesday, September 27, 2016
This weekend saw the farewell of yet another great who started his career in the ’90s — Kevin Garnett. Garnett joins Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan in retirement, finally leaving the game he made such a strong impression on.
Garnett was only one of three players with career totals of 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists. He might’ve also been one of the greatest defenders the game has ever seen, one of the original superstars who could lock down anyone, regardless of position. It is easy to throw out statistics to prove how the game will miss these unbelievable players, but what will really be missed is their personalities.
Along with Kobe and KG goes the ultra-fierce competitiveness that made the league great throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Sure there are many great things about the league now: the efficiency of teams, the health of players and the pace of play are all great developments of the past ten years. The buddy-buddy culture is not one of them.
At the cost of the AAU culture, the cost of having every player in the league being extremely skilled, the NBA lost rivalries and just mean players. Kobe and KG were two of the best, and two of the meanest, that ever came through the league. Fueled by an irrational and fiery passion for the game, these two men polarized the league for nearly two decades, and now they are gone.
Kobe’s competitive style followed in the footsteps of Jordan, a cold-blooded, “I’m so much better than you” attitude. Kobe would take and hit shots that you think are bad, and he would beat you and not care about your feelings.
KG was different. Nobody will ever be like him again. KG is madman. He is chaos, the devil and his opponent’s worst nightmare. Oh, and he was also 7-feet-11. He knew more about the game than anyone he faced and he was better than them at whatever they did best. And he would tell you that to your face. Only he would tell you by talking to himself about you, while you were standing right there.
Steven Adams, the Australian center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, said it best last year, “You’re like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s really weird, you get depressed.” Soon after KG’s retirement Adams admitted that he played the “I don’t speak English” card when he played against KG. This maniac made people depressed about playing basketball with his trash talk.
Garnett was not the norm, but a beacon. He stood out, but still belonged in the NBA culture of his time. That culture is gone. Players on rival teams are friends in the offseason.
It may be the curmudgeon in me, but this is not good for the league. KG would never have joined the Lakers like Kevin Durant joined the Warriors. And it might just be that action that is so against what KG what have done that breeds his successor — Russell Westbrook. If anyone is crazy and talented and has a legitimate reason to be as angry as Garnett was, it is Westbrook. The future is unknown, but this offseason the NBA lost its edge, and I will miss it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.