On the individual level, the GOAT debate revolves around Michael Jordan and LeBron James. When it comes to teams there are more than two contenders, but most people would land on the ’96 Bulls and ’16 Warriors. We can all speculate, but only one man had the fortune of playing against both of those teams. Here’s how Kevin Garnett played against them.
Young KG versus MJ’s Bulls
When the Minnesota Timberwolves faced the Chicago Bulls in ’95/’96, it pitted a young, bullish, and full of confidence 19-year-old Garnett who was eager to test himself against Michael Jordan. MJ was on a personal mission after taking a hiatus from playing basketball, and he did not disappoint. Chicago set a record that withstood the test of time, if not only for the Warriors, who broke it in more than two decades after.
KG had an exciting night. His usual self tried to get into the mind of MJ, but the GOAT thrived in these situations. In the end, it backfired, and it became an anecdote for Garnett whenever Michael Jordan’s legendary trash-talking was discussed.
Vet KG against the Warriors
The KG who faced Golden State was far from his peak. The ’15/’16 Golden State made history by recording the best win-loss numbers in the regular season in the history of the NBA. They bested the ’96 by one win, but experts claim that MJ’s Bulls remain the greatest team ever because they won the crown. The season did not go according to Golden State’s plan, but their dominance in the 2015-16 season was something else.
That team ushered in the small-ball era, which became the blueprint for other teams wanting to make a deep run in the postseason. Curry and Klay Warriors played unbelievably well and the supporting crew knew their role and delivered it.
Garnett knew he was playing his last season when he faced the Warriors. KG came back to Minnesota to finish his career with the franchise he never wanted to leave and mentor the future of the franchise Karl Anthony Towns. KAT played his best defense that year – a stat that frustrated a lot of Wolves fans. Garnett might have been far from his best days, but his presence was still felt on the court.
How did KG do against the best teams ever?
Garnett only registered 5 assists and 2 rebounds against Curry and company – he didn’t score a single point. Full of knowledge and experience, he couldn’t keep up with the young Warriors who were chasing the regular-season record. The power forward performed better against the Bulls two decades earlier. KG put up 16 points and 15 rebounds in the first matchup and 20 points and 8 rebounds in the second game. His game was raw but unstoppable.
There were a lot of similarities between the Bulls and the Warriors team. One, they were coached by legends of the game. Coincidentally, Steve Kerr, the coach of record-breaking Warriors in 2016, was part of the legendary 72-10 Chicago Bulls team. Two, they were led by generational stars in Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry. These players changed the game forever with their flair and performance never before seen in the league before. Third, the supporting cast was unbelievable. Jordan had Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Toni Kukoć, while Steph had Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Andrew Bogut.
KG already made basketball immortality when he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2020. Being the only player who faced two of the most significant and most dominant teams in history only adds more glitter to his legendary resume.