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Kevin Garnett recalls Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki adjusting to the NBA’s physicality back in the day

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Future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Garnett was one of the most physically imposing players in the NBA, and he knew more than anyone how tough the league would be on big men who didn’t grow up playing American hoops. This is why he is so impressed with Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki for being able to handle the physicality of the league well.

Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson talked with the one-time NBA champion for their All The Smoke podcast and was asked about how international big men are getting used to the physicality of the game. While not everyone can successfully make the shift, he pointed out that Yao, Nowitzki, and Pau Gasol were some of the standout bigs who thrived during the very physical play of the 2000s.

LA Times Sports shared a snippet of the podcast, and Kevin Garnett could not stop singing praises about his peers.

Yao was first looked upon as a skinny young man who could have been pushed around by some of the league’s big centers. However, he showed that he can more than thrive in the rough climate of the NBA. Injuries, unfortunately, cut his Hall of Fame career short, but he’s showcased a post presence that only a few in the league can truly contain.

Meanwhile, Nowitzki and Pau Gasol also helped usher in today’s era of shooting and passing big men. Nowitzki was the modern stretch big before the concept was even mainstream, and his talent helped him notch his only NBA championship from the Heat. Meanwhile, Gasol was a terrific, versatile big who enabled Kobe Bryant to be the best player he can be on the court.

Garnett was also a trailblazer in a way, but he’s the first to admit that what the three did under the circumstances they were in was nothing short of admirable. They helped modern bigs explore what more they could do on the court.