Though my memory had been clouded by years of disappointment, apathy, and broken dreams, I could still faintly remember standing in this place. The electric atmosphere and pulsing energy seemed so familiar. And the man in the center of the crowd, orchestrating it all, had a face I knew almost as well as my own.
The place was the TD Banknorth Garden. The event, a regular season game between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. The man in the center, of course, was none other than Kevin Garnett. But as I sat there in front of my TV screen watching the C's improve their record to an astounding 22-3, I may as well have been seated in the lower level of the Target Center in April of 2004, watching Garnett's other "Big 3" take down the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. Everything about this game just seemed that monumental.
A little over a quarter of the way through the 2007-08 NBA season, the Boston Celtics have become a true phenomenon. KG, Ray, and Pierce have an undeniable chemistry that would make you think this was their 25th season together, not their 25th game. It's truly a thing of beauty to watch. You can't help but feel excited when you see these guys making huge play after huge play and loving every minute of it. They bring a level of infectious excitement that overwhelms everyone in the building and the thousands watching at home. The way that Garden crowd was whipped into an utter frenzy tonight, there was no way to tell that this was a regular season game in December and not Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The arena was that loud, the intensity was that high, and the pure elation of everyone supporting the team clad in green was that immense.
I don't think another city will ever have as good of a sports year as Boston has had in 2007. The Red Sox won a second World Series in four years, the Patriots are a game away from 16-0, and the Celtics have not only been introduced to Kevin Garnett, but they've staged a turn-around for the ages as they will likely have more wins in their first two months of this season than they did all of last year. As I saw the absolute riot of joy that was shaking the Garden, I couldn't help but wonder if this incredible atmosphere was the result of an entire city that had been living on cloud nine for the past four months. How could you not be ecstatic to be a sports fan in Boston right now? I consider myself fortunate that I have the Patriots, and the Celtics, partly, as my teams. I can't imagine getting the full experience. I mean, wouldn't anyone be cheering like this if they were in the middle of such a legendary run?
Then I realized that what I was watching was so completely different from the Patriots game earlier in the afternoon, or even the few Sox playoff games I caught in the fall. This was one of 82 regular season NBA games, against a franchise that's far from a bitter rival, and yet the roof was about to be blown off the place. This was more than just a city on a hot streak.
This, was about Kevin Garnett.
As a Wolves fan, it's hard for me to wipe the taste of the last three seasons out of my mouth. They completely blur what life was like before the Timberwolves took such a horrific dive into the NBA's basement. However, over the past few weeks as I've been redesigning this website, I've had a chance to look over all of my old Timberwolves articles, and they brought me back to a time before Latrell Sprewell's hungry family, Troy Hudson's pigtails, and the Ricky Davis/Mark Blount experiment. They brought me back to a time when Kevin Garnett meant absolutely everything to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He took the entire franchise upon his shoulders and we, in turn, gave him our full and unconditional support. We lived and died with his every move. It was a relationship between a superstar and a group of fans unlike any other. It was a bond that made each of our games meaningful and caused each of the struggles we endured by supporting this team entirely worth it. With the arrival of Garnett in Boston, Celtics fans are just beginning to experience what those years were like.
You see, Kevin Garnett got burned at an extremely young and tender age in the league. His would-be career partner, Stephon Marbury, was basically gone before he got here. He lost draft picks. He lost playoff games. And worst of all, he lost the life of his closest teammate. Through it all, we, as his fans, stood by him, but those wounds never truly healed. As a result, we were always cheering for "hurt" Kevin - the KG with a chip on his shoulder and an all-too-heavy burden to bear. For nearly all of his twelve season in Minnesota, Garnett represented playing through the pain, suffering in silence, and being a good soldier. Fighting that fight with him is, and will always be, the most rewarding experience I will ever have as a sports fan, but that doesn't mean it was fun.
No, fun was watching him, and Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell completely and utterly dominate the Denver Nuggets during that first playoff game in 2004. To this day, I consider attending that game to be the single most enthralling moment of my life. For those few months of that season, "hurt" Kevin was nowhere to be found. The pain of the past had been erased by the sheer brilliance of what was happening on that basketball court. Every single trial and tribulation we had endured seemed so small compared to the magnitude of clinching the NBA's best record, finally getting out of the first round, and winning the franchise's first, and only Game 7.
Like all good things, those moments didn't last. If anything, by a seemingly cruel twist, they ended extremely prematurely. But as I watched Kevin leap up and down the floor of the Garden tonight, as I saw him raise his arms and bring that crowd to their feet, as he pounded the floor after the game, unable to contain the joy welling up inside of him, I knew, that after waiting for all these years, those moments had finally come back.
The hope of recapturing that magic is what kept me going during the past three years as a Timberwolves fan. It was my dream to watch Kevin Garnett, truly happy and unfettered from the chains of his past, play basketball just one more time. Athletes with the talent, courage, and passion of KG are a rare breed today, and when players of that quality and caliber go out and perform with their full heart, it's a beautiful thing to watch. It creates an air of excitement that spreads throughout his fans and fills their souls with joy.
Looking back at what I just typed, I can't explain it at all. I can't tell you why a man throwing a ball through a hoop causes that type of reaction. I just know it does. I felt it coarsing through me in the Target Center, and I felt it again in front of my television screen tonight. For whatever reason, God gave Kevin Garnett the unique ability to bring us all together and take us to that higher place through his basketball. That uncanny talent changed the Minnesota Timberwolves for over a decade. Now it's clearly having the same effect on the Boston Celtics. And personally, I'm glad to say that it's once again affecting me.
To feel that way again, was all I wanted as an NBA fan. It's what kept me from throwing in the towel when my head told me I'd be far better off leaving my train wreck of a team behind me. And although the return of Kevin Garnett didn't happen the way I wanted it, in Celtics green vs. Timberwolves blue, the important thing is that it did happen. Against all odds, the dream has finally come true.
How could you ask for more than that?
3. New Jersey
5. New York
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Golden State
4. Los Angeles Clippers
1. San Antonio
4. New Orleans
Boston over Atlanta
Detroit over Chicago
Orlando over Washington
Cleveland over Toronto
Boston over Cleveland
Detroit over Orlando
Boston over Detroit
1. San Antonio
7. New Orleans
8. L.A. Lakers
San Antonio over L.A. Lakers
Phoenix over New Orleans
Utah over Houston
Dallas over Denver
San Antonio over Dallas
Phoenix over Utah
San Antonio over Phoenix
San Antonio over Boston