“Somehow it took 20 years for us to play together again.” That’s how Paul Pierce started his story about Kevin Garnett. Pierce was wrong – it was 13 years. Their bond started a long time before we thought, and it involved a police chase. Let’s go back to Las Vegas in 1994.
“I first met this tall, skinny kid from South Carolina named Kevin when we were both still in high school. I got to show him around Inglewood, California when he came out here for an AAU tournament.”Paul Pierce, Player’s Tribune
Paul Pierce’s Inglewood AAU team would routinely lose to L.A. high school legend Schea Cotton’s team every summer in Las Vegas. To break the infamous streak, they decided to bring in fresh talent. A skinny 7 footer agreed to join the team for a weekend and help them beat their nemesis. The phenom from South Carolina would stay with the team’s best player, Pierce.
The moment Garnett arrived in LA, Pierce knew he was all about basketball. Although KG spoke a million words per minute, and Pierce couldn’t understand half of what he was saying, the connection was instant. Pierce didn’t understand the attention Garnett already had on him until their first practice in Inglewood – the bleachers were full.
“Then I realized; they were coming to see Kevin.”Paul Pierce, ABC News
Once they got to Las Vegas, Pierce and his team explained to Garnett taxi was the best and cheapest way to get around town, particularly the way Pierce and his guys did it – skipping out on the fare. Pierce would pick the moment, open the doors, and yell, “GO!”
“You should have seen KG’s face. He’s looking at me like, ‘What the hell is this?‘ It’s pretty hard for a 7-footer to run and hide.”Paul Pierce, ABC News
This might have been Vegas, but they were no Ocean’s Eleven. Security cameras recorded everything, and it wasn’t difficult for the local authorities to locate them. They didn’t suffer real consequences and went on to win the tournament. Despite never playing before, the basketball fit was out of this world from the first second. Even then, KG was the most energetic guy on the court.
“Every time he blocked a shot, he yelled at the top of his lungs. Every time he dunked, he yelled at the top of his lungs. I’m thinking, ‘This guy is crazy.”’Paul Pierce, ABC News
He may have been crazy, but Pierce wanted on his team. KG was picking a high school team and Pierce was convinced it was a no-brainer. He told Garnett he could move in with him and his mom would make all the chicken KG wanted (and praised during his stay). When Garnett opted for Farragut Academy in Chicago, Pierce was upset.
Not all was lost; there was a second chance. It was time to select colleges and Pierce went with Kansas. In ’95 they met at McDonald’s High School All-American game and with KG still non-committed, Pierce hoped Garnett would join him in Kansas. But given there were no rumors which colleges were in front to recruit him, Pierce had no feeling on his chances. Three weeks later, Kevin Garnett announced he is skipping college and going straight to the NBA.
Years later, Garnett finally found it in his heart to leave Minnesota and join Paul Pierce in Boston. This time, they didn’t have to skip on cab fares. Later that year, they proved anything was possible.