Rarely do players come right into the NBA and experience immediate success. The transition from college to the pros is a daunting one, and it often takes these young players time to adjust to the rigors of the NBA. Part of becoming great involves losing and overcoming those tough times.
Garnett had to overcome some tough seasons early on with the Timberwolves
The early days of Kevin Garnett’s tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves were all about losing. Before Minnesota drafted Garnett, Minnesota had gone six straight seasons winning fewer than 30 games. That streak reached seven during the 1995-96 season, which was Garnett’s rookie season.
Garnett would help the Timberwolves turn things around next season, as their 40-42 record was good enough to make it to the playoffs. However, they ran into a stacked Houston Rockets team in the first round and were promptly swept out of the playoffs.
Losing in the regular season is bad, but losing in the playoffs is worse, and nobody knows that more than Charles Barkley. Barkley was part of the Rockets team that swept Garnett and Timberwolves out of the playoffs in the 1996-97 season, and he took time after the series ended in Game 3 to find Garnett and give him some advice since he knew how it felt to lose in the playoffs:
“He was like, ‘hey, we needed this one. You guys got a million years to be able to get you one. Y’all gotta go through this part of it. Every great player, every great team, has to go through some type of something to be able to get to something’.” - Kevin Garnett, KG CERTIFIED.
Barkley’s advice ended up helping Garnett win a title
This little tidbit from Garnett helps show why he idolized Barkley and believed he was the toughest player he had ever played against in the NBA. Barkley experienced a lot of losing in the playoffs and was ultimately never able to secure that elusive championship, so he knew the toll that losing in the playoffs took on players, especially young guys like Garnett. Barkley passed on what he knew to Garnett, and it helped Garnett in his persistence in winning a title.
Of course, it took Garnett a while to win a championship, as he experienced a lot of losing with the Timberwolves, especially towards the end of his tenure there. The Boston Celtics eventually swooped in and pulled off a massive trade for Garnett that teamed him up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and it resulted in Garnett and the Celtics winning the 2008 NBA Finals.
Barkley was right that you have to go through stretches of losing to reach the summit, and that’s precisely what happened with Garnett. There were some dark days for him during his time in Minnesota, but it all finally paid off when he ended up in Boston and won a title in his first season there. Barkley had a significant impact on Garnett, and his little piece of advice after an uncompetitive sweep in the 1997 NBA Playoffs proved to be huge in keeping Garnett level-headed throughout his career.