Friday, March 30, 2007

Free Garnett

Do you remember Kevin Garnett? Do you remember his 10 years ago? Back when his youthful energy and charm captured the hearts and minds of basketball fans around the state? I do. Ten years ago I was thirteen years old and all of 5' and maybe 95 pounds, I had never played basketball, never had an interest in basketball, heck I barely even knew what a basketball was. But my neighbors at the time had a hoop in their driveway so, after finding a ball that they had left out one night I decided to give it a shot. I sucked. Bad. I mean I was worse than a blind paraplegic with no hands. But I stayed with it and I got better, eventually learning from playing with neighborhood kids the basic of how to shoot, pass, and handle the ball. As I got older, I got better but I always looked to one person for inspiration, Garnett.

It was a different time back then, Kevin was twenty, just coming into his own. Watching his youthful exuberance as he took the floor and the energy and passion which he brought to the game each and every night gave me a role model. As my admiration for Kevin grew so did my passion for the game, I found myself regularly checking the box scores of the players around the the league, keeping track of the transactions and standings. But something gradually changed. For one I began watching college ball, Syracuse in particular, and I fell in love with the game. It wasn't like the NBA. Players seemed to play with more heart, they're weren't as many huge egos; it reminded me more of my first true love, baseball, where players are typically humbled by having to take buses from town to town and sleep in ratty motels for years before becoming big-leaguers. Ever since then my passion for 'the association' has gradually been on the decline. Too many Rasheed Wallace's, not enough Hakeem Olajuwon's. The glorification of gangster culture, all of it. Today I can honestly say I've watched maybe one game this year. And the only reason I did that is because I was given tenth row seats to a Wolves game. A game which I remember more because Joe Nathan was there than because Garnett won it in overtime at the buzzer with a turn-around 8 footer.

I long for the days when the NBA excited me. The days when Kevin Garnett didn't have that look in his eye. The look of a lion who had been caged too long and kept without adequate food. The days of 'Da Kid have long since come and gone, and so has his fire for the game. He still plays the most passionate 48 of any player I've ever known, laying himself out each and every night to try and make an awful team better, but you can just sense his hearts no longer in it. And as the years and losses mount I begin to wonder if its not our responsibility as fans to demand that he be traded. Preferably to a contender. I'd take nothing back for him, I just feel so bad. I feel bad as a person, as though its my fault his life and game have been reduced to this. To playing to half-empty arenas (on the good nights) for the most incompetent front office perhaps ever assembled in professional sports, and in front of fans who barely cheer. Going to the game regretfully to say felt like about as much fun as a trip to the morgue. For as much as I long to see Garnett 'bring one home,' I just know its not going to happen. This is a team full of holes, laden with bad contracts, and bad personalities, and I'm sick of it. He must be too. Just let the poor guy go, he's given too much for too long to have to spend the rest of his basketball life dying a little more each day.

Free Garnett.