Kevin Garnett had a lot of great and challenging matchups throughout his HOF career, but apparently, Charles Barkley was the toughest player he had to face. On top of that, he had a lot of respect for Barkley's demeanor and how he influenced the game.
Barkley was a revolutionary player
In his new autobiography, Garnett reflected on his HOF career, private life, and a few other exciting topics. One of them was the influence Charles Barkley had on him ever since he was a kid and then later on when they became opponents in the NBA. Garnett was a big Barkley fan since he started watching basketball seeing him dominate the NBA despite being an undersized power forward.
Barkley was truly one-of-a-kind talent. Standing at 6'5," he would dominate much taller opponents on a nightly basis and play with tremendous passion and toughness, which enabled him to be one of the best players throughout the '90s. As a kid, Garnett was impressed by Barkley's versatility and sheer competitiveness, usually displayed through talking a lot of trash to his opponents. As we all know, Garnett was very similar in that way when he started playing in the NBA.
"He was a new kind of play. Garnett said. He could take the ball coast to coast. He could hit the three. And he was physical as hell. Brotha could bang down low. He was one of the few players who seemed to express the energy I had inside me - one of the few star players, I mean. Chuck was the first player I saw who'd mix it up like that yet also the best player on the court. He was so good that you couldn't not love him. He was one of the two best trash-talkers I ever played against - him and Gary Payton - but no matter how much trash Chuck talked, he made sure his game had the last word. I looked up to him for that."
Garnett was heavily influenced by Barkley
When Garnett got to the NBA in 1995 straight out of high school, Barkley was at the end of his prime but still capable of dropping 20-25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds with ease. Garnett was finally able to see firsthand what made Barkley one of the most dominant players in his era and he describes playing him like playing chess. It wasn't all about matching up with him physically but also being smart enough to respond to his mind games that were an essential aspect of his game.
"Facing Chuck was different. It was like playing chess. There was a mental aspect ot it. The more I studied him, the more I was influenced by his psyche. I also looked up to him because he said I shouldn't look up to him. I am not your role model, he announced in that famous Nike commercial. Damn, that shit was dope. When I played against Chuck, he didn't want no conversation with me about anything. Chuck denies it, but he didn't like me when I first came up."
Barkley is one of those NBA legends that unfortunately never won a championship even though he made a tremendous impact on basketball and was even considered in the same rank as Michael Jordan for a short period of time. On the other hand, Garnett struggled throughout the majority of his career just like Barkley but finally got one championship with the Boston Celtics back in 2008, which solidified his legacy as one of the best power forwards to ever play the game of basketball.
Nowadays, you don't see many people talking about Barkley as a player because he is mostly recognized as a host on TNT, but he was a nightmare for every team he played against and a dominant figure in his prime. Garnett had the same level of toughness, and even though their playing styles were different, their tenacity and approach to the game were very similar. Garnett, however, was a bit luckier in his career, securing the ultimate prize, which is winning an NBA title.