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“I played hard but I don’t consider myself a tough guy.” — Kevin Garnett differentiates tough and hard players

KG played mind games but didn't let it go to his head.
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett was one bad motherfu**er. He wasn’t afraid to play mind games and get physical but still showed constraint most of the time. So for KG, there is a difference between playing tough and playing hard.

Difference between tough players from hard players

KG liked to play mind games. Remember the Honeynut Cheerios incident with Carmelo Anthony? That incident could have ended in an ugly way. But kudos to Garnett for walking away like it was nothing. He perfectly displayed his disciplined on the court. And he shared his thoughts on being a tough player and a hard player.

Big difference between a tough guy and a hard player. I played hard but I don’t consider myself a tough guy. The fact that I won’t back away from a fight doesn’t make me a tough guy. Every player in the league gotta be ready to fight. You ain’t gonna survive NBA culture if you demonstrate even a sliver of weakness. The leagues made of guys who’ve come out of their neighbourhoods as superheroes. That neighborhood might be a college campus or a ghetto project.

Garnett imparted some wisdom there. The competition in the NBA is cutthroat: eat or be eaten alive. And it’s not necessarily the opponents you have to be careful of. Competition in playing time and attention also happens on your own teams.

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Soon as they arrive, they’ll be tested, not only by their opponents but their teammates who worry about them taking their place. The competition is ocean deep and mountain high. You gotta play hard or you ain’t playing at all.

KG and the brawlers

KG falls under the category of passionate players who don’t shy away from the physicality and trash talk but know when to walk away. As seen on the video highlights, Garnett wasn’t afraid to butt heads, but he’d walk away most of the time. By that time, he’d be successful in taking the opposing player’s focus on the game.

However, there are those ready to swing anytime. Charles Oakley and Bill Laimbeer were always prepared for anything, and they didn’t walk away. You know they’re not just playing mind games or fake being tough. They were out to end players’ careers.

Comparing their longevity, Garnett had a more illustrious career because of his talent and his patience. He chose his battles. The Big Ticket lasted long in the league because he played tough. In his 21 years in the NBA, KG was fined around $110,000. It could have been a lot more if he didn’t control himself in heated situations.

If NBA stars today want to have a long career, they should follow Garnett’s advice. Sometimes, walking away is a sign of maturity. Toughness isn’t measured by thrown punches but by how you handle your emotions when things don’t go your way. 

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