Many people seem to forget who truly created the modern NBA. People are always quick to point at LeBron James because of his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to take his talents to South Beach and play alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But what about Kevin Garnett? KG was part of a superteam before LeBron and won a championship first. There’s a valid argument that he was actually the one who created the modern NBA and this era of player empowerment, not LeBron James.
On this day 13 years ago, July 31, 2007, Garnett was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Boston Celtics. In exchange, Minnesota received Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, and two first-round draft picks. Notably, this deal made history by becoming the largest NBA trade ever for a single player. This gave birth to Boston’s Big Three era.
Garnett was more than just a walking double-double. With the Timberwolves, Garnett was one of just five players in NBA history to amass at least 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. The 6-foot-11 big man led the NBA in rebounding for four consecutive seasons and was just the fourth player in NBA history to do so along with the likes of Chamberlain, Moses Malone and Dennis Rodman. Garnett was also named to the All-NBA First Team three times, the All-NBA Second Team three times and the All-NBA Third Team twice.
In addition, Garnett’s defense was superior, as he earned All-Defensive honors eight times in Minnesota. He also had one of the longest active streaks for scoring in double figures with 398 straight games, dating back to the 2002-03 season. That streak of 398 games puts him at eighth in NBA history.
There was clear justification for Boston giving up so much for such a high-caliber player in order to create a superteam.
While he definitely wasn’t as controversial as LeBron James, Garnett had the talent and personality to put him alongside the league’s best. When the trade was made, plenty were quick to proclaim the Celtics as the favorite to win the title in 2007-08.
Sure enough, the Celtics went 66-16 that regular season and won the championship as well, which signaled that a dynasty was possibly brewing. While a dynasty didn’t exactly come to fruition, KG’s Celtics made it to one more NBA Finals (lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010) and engaged in some intense playoff battles with LeBron’s Heat over the years.
While James ultimately got the better of Garnett in Miami, an argument could be made that The King wouldn’t have joined the Heat in the first place if he didn’t have the Celtics’ Big Three standing in his way in the Eastern Conference. Remember, Boston beat LeBron’s Cavs in the 2010 playoffs, leading to the move to South Beach.
If you look at the series of events, first it was the Celtics (Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen), then the Heat (James, Wade, Bosh) and then the Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant) in terms of recent superteams. You can’t deny the pattern that the modern NBA has been following ever since the Garnett trade in 2007.
While dynasties have been around forever with the likes of the old-school Celtics news and Lakers, plus the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s and San Antonio Spurs in the 2000s, Garnett’s trade request and formation of the Big Three in Boston helped usher in a new era of superteams and player empowerment. This trend has continued to this day, with Anthony Davis essentially forcing his way to join LeBron on the Lakers before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George orchestrated a move to the Los Angeles Clippers.
NBA stars understand the power they have, and the Kevin Garnett trade in 2007 played a key role in the changing dynamics of the league.