Kevin Garnett was the first player to go to the NBA directly from high school in 20 years. The decision to go ahead with such a bold move happened during a time when two questions bothered him. First, can KG “pass those goddamn tests”? He struggled with SATs and ACTs. Second, and more importantly, can he hang with the big boys, or should he get a bit more experience in college?
After not reaching the necessary scores on the tests, KG hit the books hard and retook the tests. On the very day the results of the second round of the SATs and ACTs were supposed to come back, a friend came over to help him take his mind off things. The best way to do it? Hoops. What was the best game in town? How about the Chicago Bulls playing in the Hilton?
They snuck in through the side door and watched Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen slug it out. At that point, MJ was out of the league for a year and a half – this was actually MJ getting back into shape, and soon after that announcing he’s coming back. Scottie was playing the best basketball in his life. KG and his friend spent the next hour watching the best of the best, and you can imagine the crazy Garnett getting more hyped up with every play. Then a security guard called Garnett out – he thought they were in trouble, but it turned out he was getting the nod to lace them up. Here’s how The Big Ticket described it in his autobiography KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between
Pippen says, “You too young to be out here. You just a high school kid.”Kevin Garnett, KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between
Jordan says, “Let’s just go.” Then he points to me and says, “You guard Scottie.”
I’m thinking, Damn, I’m playing against my idol. I’m playing against a guy who’s coming off one of the best years of his career.
Right off, Pippen calls for the ball and does a stutter move before launching a big-ass three.
I’m like, That’s crazy, no way he could have made that shot.
But then my natural reflexes kick in. Boom! I dunk. Boom!
Scottie and I have a word. That just fires me up more. I’m thinking, I’m holding my own against one of the greats. As the game goes on, I’m gaining confidence. Ain’t backing down. No one’s making a fool of me. I’m competitive with these muthaf—as. I’m playing Scottie close, hard and tough. I’m in his face. I’m acting like every moment of my life has led me to this. Scottie may be Scottie, but right now he’s just a hooper I gotta beat to the ball. I’m on fire.
After that night, Garnett was sure he can make it in the NBA right away. KG just held his own against his idol. Yes, Pippen was his guy. There’s no better confirmation than that. He finished the chapter with a message to the security guard who called him out – “Thank you.”