Arguably one of the most famous pre-game rituals of all time is LeBron James’ chalk toss. So much so that it has generated imitators, classic photographs, and million-dollar commercials. It has also overshadowed players who practiced it before James. One of them is Kevin Garnett — the Boston Celtics legend who stonewalled James’ early playoff campaigns. In his book KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between, Garnett discussed his own iteration of the chalk toss and why James’ rendition is a “shame.”
Chalk toss GOAT (pun intended)
KG acknowledged that he got the pre-game chalk ritual from none other than Michael Jordan, who, upon entering the league in 1984, dumped “some chalk on his hands to help with his grip and dust it off at the scorer’s table.” Johnny “Red” Kerr, one of the Bulls’ announcers during that time, remarked how uncomfortable he was as the chalk would fly everywhere.
Jordan apparently got word of Kerr’s comments and decided to mess with him and his play-by-play partner Jim Durham by intentionally dumping the chalk onto the duo. As Jordan got bigger, more eyes tuned into the ritual. Kerr and Durham, too, got into the gag and put on surgical masks, respirators, or even opened up umbrellas, much to the entertainment of the fans.
Chalk as a response
Jordan’s antics sparked something in KG. The one-time NBA MVP had been harboring ill feelings towards the media — especially those who talked smack to him and his teammates. Garnett admitted that he never really read such criticisms from the press but somehow and someway, it always reached his ears. Garnett wanted to retaliate in a special way. And so he took Jordan’s pre-game ritual and gave it his own spin.
“So at the start of the game, when I’d get ready to roll out there, I would go over to the area along the sideline where the writers were sitting. I’d load my hands up with chalk, way more than I needed. I’d fling it at them and then clap my hands—but the clap was really just to hide the fling. The stuff would go everywhere, all over their computers. It wasn’t no joke like between Jordan and Johnny and Jim, but it made me smile to see how pissed the writers got, see them holding their papers up in front of their faces,” Garnett wrote.
Garnett pointed out that social media wasn’t as prevalent when he started clowning his critics. Tossing chalk at them was the only way he could respond. Just like how Jordan inspired him, Garnett probably wanted the chalk toss to evolve into something even better. When he saw James’ own spin on the ritual, KG wasn’t impressed.
“Later on, LeBron would take the move and put his own spin on it. Load up even more than I did before flinging it high in the air. People love it. It gets the fans hyped. But me? Whenever I see that I think, What a shame. All that chalk and not a single pissed-off writer to show for it.”
And so that settles it. Garnett does not just harbor ill feelings for James and his move to South Beach, which effectively stonewalled his chances at snagging another title. KG is also mad at James for not using the chalk toss ritual to respond to critics.