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KG vs Dirk: Revisiting the rivalry between generational power forwards that changed the NBA

Kevin Garnett & Dirk Nowitzki

Tim Cato wrote a story sharing how Nowitzki turned it around and gave KG a dose of his own medicine.

Remember a time in the NBA when power forwards ruled the land? They dominated the games and spelled the difference between contenders and pretenders. The West Conference was always stacked with power forwards, but one matchup was always fun to see: Kevin Garnett versus Dirk Nowitzki.

KG vs Dirk revisited

There was a time that the league was full of sensational power forwards: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber, to name a few. However, the matchup between KG and Dirk was always fun to watch. They have contrasting styles and personalities, and it showed how they clashed on the court. 

Head-to-head, Nowitzki has a 23-17 record over Garnett, including 3-0 in the postseason. KG entered the league in 1995, while Dirk was drafted in 1998. That meant Kevin had a headstart over Dirk, and knowing how passionate the former Minnesota Timberwolves star was, he tried to punk the young German and gave him “welcome to the league” moment. It came to a point where the Mavs star had enough.

Tim Cato wrote a story sharing how Nowitzki turned it around and gave KG a dose of his own medicine. 

“Nowitzki’s first real rivalry was against Kevin Garnett. He didn’t like the way Nowitzki talked, the phrases he’d say on the court, and Nowitzki didn’t like Garnett either. It wasn’t until Nowitzki began talking back to Garnett that they began developing mutual, if begrudging, respect.

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In a game against Minnesota, Garnett fell down, and Nowitzki, without hesitation, yelled, “Get your ass up, we ain’t through kicking your ass.”

“He finally got the confidence in himself to be able to go back at ’em,” Lewis says, “and that was a big part of his growth and maturation.”

Garnett was one of the most brutal trash-talkers in the league, and Dirk, a European big whose unorthodox game brought nightmares to defenders, gave each other fits and treated fans to a classic playoff game where they went mano-a-mano.

Generational power forwards

Dirk and KG revolutionized the game. Between them, 57, 631 points were scored. Their paths to the only titles of their careers also took different routes. KG joined a super team in Boston while Dirk stayed and won one for Dallas. Garnett’s a passionate and loud competitor who backed it up with his game every time. Meanwhile, Nowitzki extended the range for big men and paved the way for Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and other forwards to add outside shooting in their arsenal.

Now that Dirk is set to have his jersey retired, it’s nice to look back on intense rivalries with fellow forwards. The two came to the league at almost the same time, dominated their era, and went out as all-time greats. You can't write a better story than that. 

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