Aside from his dominance on the court, Kevin Garnett will always be known as one of the best players to come straight out of high school to the NBA. He pioneered the same career route for Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James, who also skipped college basketball and went straight to the professional league.
KG was one of the first few players to prove that even without college experience, a player can transition well and thrive in the league immediately.
KG encouraged high schoolers to do the same.
That's why, throughout his career, KG always had a soft spot for players who came straight out of high school. According to the 1-time champion, he would go out of the way to gladly mentor them but not to the point that he took it easy on them on the court.
"I had a special place for n**gas that came out of high school, just in case they wanted to talk to me, if they wanted to build," Garnett told GQ Magazine's Michael Pina in 2001. "And it was hard because, you know, when you're battling against a young Dwight [Howard] or you're battling against a young Kwame [Brown] or a young Darius Miles, or even a young LeBron, you're trying to keep a certain level of respect, but then you don't want to be so comfortable that a motherfu**er is comfortable with you, if you understand what I'm saying," Garnett added.
Garnett, who graduated from Mauldin Farragut Academy in Chicago, Illinois, was drafted in 1995 with the 5th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's also one of the first players straight out of high school to secure a ground-breaking 6-year $126 million 2 years after being drafted, which is remarkable.
Isaiah Thomas' role in KG's life
If it weren't for NBA Hall-of-Famer and Detroit Pistons icon Isaiah Thomas, KG wouldn't have probably taken the route he did. Thomas first saw Garnett's potential on a random day in Chicago in a high school gym when the latter played a pickup game against Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Thomas, who was the executive of the Toronto Raptors in 1995, admitted that he wanted to draft Garnett.
"I had targeted him as the person that I wanted to draft and start our franchise with," Thomas told GQ Magazine's Michael Pina. "But being in his presence...it was overwhelming. You felt his energy, his intensity, his passion, his love for his craft in high school, beyond anybody else who was in the gym. It was one of the most poetic, beautiful experiences I had had or felt from a young player."
That's why it was Thomas who Garnett requested to induct him in his Hall-of-Fame ceremony. Without Thomas, Garnett admits that he probably wouldn't have the confidence to pursue the NBA as early as he did.
The most pivotal part of Garnett's career was when Thomas complimented him in that pickup game he played, and because of that, one of the best power forwards to ever play the game cemented his legacy.