Kevin Garnett was the first player drafted directly out of high school since 1975. LeBron spoiled us in thinking that if a high-school kid is drafted, he must be spectacular and can make an impact right away. Garnett’s journey was a bit different.
KG initially came off the bench in his rookie year but moved into the starting lineup soon after Flip Saunders became the head coach of the Wolves. Still, his NBA stardom wasn’t a lock – he averaged 10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Garnett didn’t even make the All-Rookie first team and had to satisfy with a place on the All-Rookie second team. (fun fact, one of the positions on the All-Rookie first team went to Arvydas Sabonis at the young age of 31.)
His second year showed glimpses of the KG we know. 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.7 steals from a second-year player that led the Timberwolves to the playoffs. Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal got injured, so Detlef Schrempf and young KG were brought in as replacements for the All-Star game. KG became the second-youngest player ever to appear in an All-Star game, at 20 years, 8 months, and 21 days.
The youngest at the time was Magic Johnson, who made it at 20 years 5 months and 20 days. Magic would later be surpassed by Kobe, the youngest ever, and LeBron, second youngest. The fact he got selected as a second-year player who came out of high school meant the world to KG. A lot of people were skeptical about drafting a kid out of high school, and playing in the All-Star game was the validation that he belonged. Who wouldn’t think that after getting selected to play with Payton, Kemp, and Hakeem against Jordan, Pippen, and Dikembe?
I really feel like an All-Star. Like people want to see Kevin Garnett.Kevin Garnett
As much as he belonged, KG was still in awe of it all. When Magic gave him a high five in the tunnel, and he said what most of us would say. “‘I won’t wash this hand for a long time.”