Kevin Garnett is a future Hall-of-Famer and easily the best player to ever suit-up for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Let's take a look at the 15 greatest moments of his career in a Wolves uniform.
Take a look at the 30 best players to to ever set foot on the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and you'll find that there aren't many Hall-of-Famers on it. Heck, there aren't even all that many All-Stars -- only seven total, in fact.
But the easy No. 1 on said list, and on nearly every single franchise record to date, is Kevin Garnett.
Garnett made the All-Star team 10 times in his first 12 seasons, led the Wolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances and won the league MVP award in 2004 while bringing his squad all the way to the Western Conference Finals, achieving the only playoff series win(s) in franchise history in the process.
KG is a consensus top-25 NBA player of all-time, and some lists would certainly have him in the top 20; it's impossible to imagine another Wolves player coming along and unseating Garnett at the top of the Wolves' all-time hierarchy.
Garnett had plenty of memorable moments with the team, and not all of them are individual game performances.
Let's take a trip down memory lane and relive the 15 greatest moments of Garnett's time in Minnesota.
15. Garnett scores 40 on 22 shots to beat Sacramento
The Timberwolves were still a young, up-and-coming team in 2001, and Garnett himself was just 24 years old.
The Wolves were 31-18 coming into the Feb. 7 showdown with the 31-15 Sacramento Kings, and it appeared as though Minnesota was ready to make some serious noise in the stacked Western Conference.
On this night, Garnett and his teammates did not disappoint. The Wolves decimated the Kings, jumping out to a 41-10 lead at the end of the first quarter -- and this is a Sacramento team that went on to win 55 games and was a perennial contender in the West. They weren't a pushover by any stretch of the imagination.
Garnett had the most efficient game of his career, knocking down 17 shots on 22 attempts (77.3 percent) and making both of his 3-point attempts and all four of his free throws. He got to 40 points in just 34 minutes, and the game was all but over by the time the horn sounded at the end of the first quarter.
Garnett also added seven rebounds and six assists in this dismantling of the Kings. His 17 made field goals tied for third-most in KG's career for a single game, and, remarkably, came on only 22 shots.
This isn't the only time the Kings will appear on this list, either. There were many memorable matchups between Minnesota and Sacramento, and more specifically, Garnett and Chris Webber, as we'll find out shortly.
14. Putback dunk against Houston
The 1996-97 NBA season saw the Timberwolves don brand new uniforms after the franchise underwent a full re-brand following seven seasons of the inaugural uniforms and logo.
The docile-looking wolf was gone, replaced by a fierce, growling wolf to match the attitude and demeanor of budding star Garnett.
Minnesota made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history that year, finishing with a 40-42 record in the regular season and getting swept by the eventual Western Conference champion Houston Rockets in the first round.
But that doesn't mean that the 20-year-old Garnett didn't get the chance to show off his hops in front of the Rockets faithful in Houston.
But that doesn't mean that the 20-year-old Garnett didn't get the chance to show off his hops in front of the Rockets faithful in Houston.
This dunk is marvelous for many reasons.
Pause the video when Garnett actually catches the ball. It's at his waist while he's jumping, probably about six feet in the air. That means it was still four feet from the rim.
In a split-second, Garnett brings the ball back up to the rim as gravity is pulling his body down and manages to dunk the ball. And the ball doesn't just sneak over the iron, either, he dunks it with absolute authority.
The 1996-97 season meant the start of seven consecutive playoff appearances for Garnett's Wolves, and the first of six-straight first-round exits. But it was just important for the Flip Saunders-led squad, whose offense revolved around the 20-year-old KG and 19-year-old Stephon Marbury, to make the postseason.
This dunk was just one of several "welcome to the NBA, Kevin Garnett" moments that Wolves opponents would have to suffer through. In fact, there's more to come on this very list...
13. A dominating performance vs. the Suns
While Garnett never was known for putting up gaudy scoring numbers, there are a host of fun regular season games to choose from.
From his overall efficiency for a player that didn't shoot many 3-pointers, to 20-rebound games, triple-doubles, and more, there are plenty of impressive box score lines that stick out from Garnett's game logs.
But in January of 2005, Garnett scored a career-high 47 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, dished out four assists, and tallied two steals. While it came in a losing effort, the Wolves lost to the mighty Phoenix Suns, who were 26-4 at the time and finished the regular season with 62 wins and a trip to the conference finals.
The Wolves were coming off their own Western Conference Finals berth the previous spring but were struggling during the first quarter of the season and sat at just 16-12 coming into play against Phoenix. It was the season that saw Flip Saunders fired when the team had a 25-26 record more than halfway through the year, and the first year of a 14-year playoff drought.
But that didn't stop Garnett from doing everything he could to lift the Wolves to a win.
Garnett's 47 points came on an efficient 19-of-28 shooting and 9-of-11 in a game-high 42 minutes. After Minnesota trailed by 15 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves outscored the Suns by a 35-27 margin in the final frame, but the "Seven Seconds or Less" Suns offense was too much.
This particular Wolves team was simply too banged up and still suffering from a conference finals hangover. But that doesn't mean this wasn't an amazing performance from "The Big Ticket".
12. Massive dunk over Shawn Bradley
There's something unforgettable about a guy who stands 7-foot-7 getting dunked on. So much so, in fact, that poor Shawn Bradley has more than one YouTube montage dedicated to getting dunked on.
Garnett's turn came in March of 1998. With the Wolves clinging to what would turn out to be a second consecutive playoff berth (and only the second in franchise history to date), the Wolves visited Dallas at the start of a grueling seven-game road trip.
The Wolves got off to a good start, leading 22-20 in the final minute of the opening frame. But that wasn't enough for "The Kid", as he was known at the time.
Garnett threw down, and the Wolves' lead grew to 24-20 at the end of the first quarter.
But the Wolves struggled the rest of the game and ultimately lost to a bad Mavericks team by a score of 91-87 after Dallas won the fourth quarter by a 30-16 margin.
The Mavs finished the season with a 20-62 record while the Wolves won 45 games, easily the franchise-best to that point, en route to a playoff spot. Minnesota also won their first playoff game that year, taking the Seattle SuperSonics to the brink in round one before losing a Game 5 battle in the Emerald City.
This was another moment where the Wolves and Garnett announced their presence on the national stage, although it did come during a disappointing loss to an inferior opponent.
Okay, there's still one dunk that we have to talk about...
11. Beating up on the Kings
The Timberwolves had dispatched of the Sacramento Kings less than eight months prior in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, and Garnett wanted to once again prove his dominance over Chris Webber and the rest of Sactown.
Sure, this was only a regular season game in December, but it was also the Kings; if you haven't sensed a bit of a theme already, you will. Sacramento finds itself on this countdown a lot.
In this Dec. 10, 2004 matchup, the Wolves and Kings entered with identical 12-6 records. Head coach Rick Adelman's Kings were no doubt looking for revenge following their playoff ouster at the hands of Minnesota, and the Wolves wanted to solidify their spot as a top challenger in the West, if not the favorite.
The Wolves entered the fourth quarter trailing by six points, but Garnett had 11 points in the final frame including knocking down all five of his free throw attempts.
For the game, Garnett shot 11-of-22 from the field and missed his only 3-point attempt but was a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line.
On the other side of the court, it took Chris Webber 27 shots to get to 25 points and the Kings' All-Star big man committed four turnovers. Garnett had the best of him once again, and it was a big win for the Wolves at the time.
Of course, this was the 2004-05 season that saw Flip Saunders get fired and the Wolves start their streak of playoff-less seasons, but this particular performance by Garnett and subsequent victory by the Timberwolves was memorable nonetheless.
10. Monster putback dunk vs. the Kings
While the first two Garnett dunks on this list both happened in the late stages of the previous millennium, a certain generation of Timberwolves fans -- yours truly included -- likely remembers KG's enormous putback dunk against the Sacramento Kings at Target Center as the most memorable single slam of his illustrious career.
The 2000-01 Timberwolves were coming off the franchise's first-ever 50-win season in 1999-2000, as well as their fourth consecutive first-round playoff loss.
The Nov. 4 matchup was the Timberwolves home opener that year and only the third game of the season. The Kings came into the game with a 2-1 record after having won 44 games the year before. When 2000-01 was all said and done, however, Rick Adelman's crew would finish with an impressive 55 wins while the Wolves slipped to 47.
The Wolves had put on a solid show for the Target Center faithful in the first quarter of the season at home. But before the first quarter was all wrapped up, KG gave the fans what they came to see.
Garnett followed the dunk with a 3-point play with just seven seconds remaining in the frame. That gave The Big Ticket 13 points in the quarter and propelled the Wolves to nine-point lead after the quarter -- the same margin by which they'd ultimately win the game.
It's not often that 7-footers make highlight reels with their dunks, and Garnett wasn't much of an exception to that rule, save for the trio of slams that made it onto our countdown.
9. Garnett drops 35 and 20 in the playoffs
In 2003, for the first time in franchise history, the Timberwolves managed to land home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs by way of a top-four seed in the Western Conference.
Of course, they only won 51 games and bested the imposing, 50-win Los Angeles Lakers by just a single game in the regular season, but that meant that they'd get to host Game 1 and Game 2 of the first round at Target Center -- a huge deal for a franchise with six consecutive playoff series losses.
For their part, the Lakers had just won back-to-back-to-back NBA championships and still had their Hall-of-Fame duo together in Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The Wolves hadn't yet pieced together their "Big Three" that would carry them to the Western Conference Finals the following year and were led by Garnett a banged-up Wally Szczerbiak. (As it turns out, averaging 38 minutes per game over all 82 games in his All-Star season the year before wasn't great for his legs.)
Here's the scene: Minnesota has finally achieved home court advantage. They're playing host to the Lakers, who have won three-straight NBA titles. And the Wolves have already lost Game 1 by 19 points. Simply put, a loss in Game 2 would be devastating.
In steps Garnett.
Garnett was dominant, scoring 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting with 20 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block. The Wolves won going away, besting the Lakers' Game 1 advantage and winning by a final of 119-91.
When the series moved to Los Angeles, the Wolves actually managed to win Game 3 and take a 2-1 advantage in the series before the Lakers won three straight games to close it out.
The next season, however, the Wolves ended up with the No. 1 seed in the entire conference. More on that later.
8. The Return
When Garnett finally accepted that the best thing for his career was to be traded away from the Timberwolves franchise and Minnesota fanbase that he had been so fiercely loyal to, it didn't seem likely that he'd ever come back.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor had some not-so-flattering comments about Garnett in the wake of the trade, and there were plenty of bridges that certainly appeared to be burned.
Six years after Garnett was traded and eight since Flip Saunders had been fired, the latter rejoined the organization as front office boss. Saunders was tasked with fixing a mess left behind by David Kahn, and after two years in the front office and the retirement of then-head coach Rick Adelman, Saunders hired himself as head coach and rejoined the bench.
It only took until February of Saunders' first year back as coach for him to trade for Garnett, who by this time was in his second season with the floundering Brooklyn Nets.
There were some hurdles to overcome in order to convince Garnett to waive his no-trade clause and agree to come to Minnesota (remember, Garnett and Taylor butted heads again following Saunders' death and prior to KG's retirement), but Flip was able to pull it off.
While reactions to the trade itself were mixed (in my own head, in fact), the game was electric.
The team needed to release extra standing-room only tickets to accommodate the crowd. Local television ratings spiked between six and seven times what the team had been pulling that season prior to Garnett's return.
This was a special moment, and while Saunders' tragic death came less than eight months later and Garnett's second stint with the Wolves did not end as anyone would have hoped, Feb. 24, 2015 remains a memorable night for fans of Minnesota basketball.
7. Rookie Garnett shows off versatility
Garnett had an impressive rookie season for the Wolves, averaging 10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game while only playing 28.7 minutes per night and starting just 43 of the 80 games in which he appeared.
He improved as the season went on, and when the 14-36 Timberwolves played host to the mighty Houston Rockets in late February of 1996, not all that many folks were paying close attention.
But for Wolves fans who followed the team -- and especially the 14,224 that were in attendance at Target Center that night -- it was a game that won't soon be forgotten.
Garnett, still just 19 years old, had recently joined the starting lineup and was beginning to show his impossible range of skills and tantalizing potential. There was one particular sequence from the game that became famous, however.
You saw that right. A nasty block at the rim, followed by an athletic rebound, and then capped off by a bee-line to the rim that finished with an explosive dunk.
That's a 19-year-old sticking it to Hakeem Olajuwon (who put up 30 points and 10 rebounds in the loss) and the rest of the Rockets, who went on to win 48 games that year. The Wolves won this one, however -- one of just 26 wins they were able to get that season.
This exact type of dynamic play is exactly what Garnett provided for his entire career, and it's fascinating to watch it play out before our eyes in three separate acts that occurred all on the same play.
6. Garnett beats the Pistons at the buzzer
Garnett had a bit of unfair rap for much of his career related to his willingness and/or ability to take a clutch shot at the end of games. In fact, it's not all that unlike some of the criticism that LeBron James has gone through for much of his career.
The reason for this, of course, is that both Garnett and James are fundamentally sound basketball players who almost always make the right play. If they're double-teamed and can't get a clean shot off, they'll pass the ball to an open teammate.
And while the number of game-winners that Garnett hit in his career with the Wolves was low relative to the sheer number of games he played with Minnesota, he did hit a couple of memorable ones.
The first came on April 10, 2000, with the Wolves jostling for playoff position down the stretch of the regular season.
Minnesota was hosting the Detroit Pistons, who came to Target Center with a record of 40-36. The Wolves trailed by five points heading into the fourth quarter, but ultimately tied the game at 100 and had a final possession with a chance to win.
Garnett didn't disappoint, despite being double-teamed on the catch of the pass lofted directly from the in-bounder. Garnett fell away to his left and drained a cold-blooded game-winner as the final horn sounded.
The Wolves finished the season with 50 wins before losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Don't worry, there's another buzzer-beater on this list...
5. Game-winner against the Blazers
Garnett's final season in Minnesota was an anti-climactic one, with head coach Flip Saunders' replacement Dwayne Casey getting fired after a 20-20 start and Randy Wittman taking over the reigns at coach.
The team won just 32 games, a season after going 33-49. Garnett was traded to Boston in the offseason, and the most dispiriting period of Wolves basketball began in earnest.
But when the 29-40 Portland Trail Blazers and the 29-39 Minnesota Timberwolves faced off for a Sunday matinée, there were still fireworks.
In a closely contested game that saw the Blazers lead by just one heading into the final frame, Portland's young duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy scored four points in 30 seconds, sandwiched around a Garnett travel, to give the Blazers a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left.
After a 20-second timeout, the Wolves inbounded the ball at half-court...
After receiving the inbounds pass, Garnett took one hard dribble to his right and arced a difficult shot over the outstretched arms of two defenders. The shot splashed through, and the Wolves had a buzzer-beating win.
The Blazers were led by 22 points from the rookie Roy, who would play five games for the Wolves in a comeback attempt in 2012, and 19 points off the bench from a young Zach Randolph. Rookie big man Aldridge managed just 13 points on 12 shots and just six rebounds.
Ultimately, this game was a classic example of a young team on the rise in Portland and a team that was winding itself down from playoff contender to cellar-dweller.
But at least we have the buzzer-beater...
4. Beating the Kings in overtime
While the 2003-04 season still stands as easily the best campaign in Timberwolves franchise history, things started a bit slowly.
During the first week of December, the Wolves were just 10-8 on the year and were facing a tough road test against the Sacramento Kings, who we've already learned plenty about thus far on this countdown.
This was a back-and-forth game that saw the Kings grab the contest by the horns in the fourth quarter, taking a six-point lead with only 29.2 seconds remaining on the clock -- a virtual certainty that the game was over, right?
Remember, Garnett was a 27.5 percent career 3-point shooter and shot just 11-for-43 (25.6 percent) on threes during the 2003-04 season, knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 26.8 seconds remaining.
Upon the Kings' inbounding of the basketball, the Wolves fouled Brad Miller. Miller was not only an 80.4 percent free-throw shooter in his career but scored 35 points in this particular game. And oh-by-the-way, Miller had already made his first nine free throw attempts of the game.
But he missed both freebies, and Garnett grabbed the rebound before knocking down the game-tying three on the other end of the court to send the game to an extra session.
The Wolves won in overtime, but the real heroics was the work that KG did to get them there. Ultimately, Garnett finished with 33 points on 13-of-29 shooting, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed 25 rebounds, dished out six assists and swatted away three shots.
Oh, and believe it or not, we still aren't quite done with the Kings...
3. First-ever Timberwolves playoff series win
The Timberwolves had existed as a franchise for 15 years before winning a playoff series.
But entering the 2004 NBA Playoffs, the Wolves were the No. 1 seed after winning 58 games in the regular season and earning a first-round matchup against the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets were led by 19-year-old rookie Carmelo Anthony and veterans Andre Miller and Marcus Camby. They had won 43 regular season games prior to the kickoff of postseason play.
Anthony vs. Latrell Sprewell was a matchup to watch, as was Miller vs. Sam Cassell. But the aging Camby and 21-year-old Nene weren't going to be a fair match for the perennial All-Star and that year's league MVP.
The Wolves hosted Games 1 and 2 and dominated both, winning each contest by 14 points. The series moved to Denver where the Nuggets emerged from Game 3 victorious, but the Wolves eked out an 84-82 win in the Mile High City in Game 4 before returning home to finish things off in Game 5.
Garnett led both teams in per-game averages over the five contests in points (25.8), rebounds (14.8), assists (7.0), blocks (2.0) and was head-and-shoulders the best player on the floor regardless of what jersey they were wearing.
There weren't any Game 5 highlights available online, so here's a full look at Game 4, which the Wolves also won.
Garnett's leadership and fantastic play on both ends of the court were to thank for the relative ease with which the Wolves were able to win the series.
The Timberwolves went on to play against the Sacramento Kings in the second round. More on that shortly...
2. MVP! MVP! MVP!
The 2003-04 season was magical for many reasons for the Timberwolves and their fans, and Garnett's Most Valuable Player award is certainly high on that list.
It's hard to understate just how awesome Garnett was throughout the 2003-04 campaign. But we're going to try to put it into words.
Garnett played in all 82 games (one of six consecutive seasons in which KG played in at least 81 games) and averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks per game. He shot 49.9 percent from the field and 79.1 percent from the free throw line.
Garnett led the league in total rebounds, finishing with 1,139 -- a full 133 rebounds ahead of Detroit's Ben Wallace, who finished in second-place. KG also led the league in points, defensive rebounds, field goals attempted and made, and 2-point shots attempted and made. Somewhat surprisingly, he was still only No. 8 in the league in usage, even ranking behind rival big man Tim Duncan.
Garnett also ranked in the top 20 in blocks (9th), steals (19th), free throws made (13th), offensive rebounds (10th), and minutes played (4th).
As for the advanced metrics, Garnett placed No. 2 in both offensive win shares and defensive win shares, easily making him No. 1 overall in win shares on the season. He also led the way in box plus-minus and was No. 3 in defensive rating.
No matter how you slice it, Garnett was otherworldly in 2003-04. And it was almost enough to get the Wolves to the Finals...
1. Game 7 win over the Kings
Wolves fans, remember just how amped Garnett was for Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals?
After the Timberwolves led the series three games to two but were dominated by the Kings in Game 6, the Wolves were heading back home. And this was what "The Big Ticket" had to say about it...
In a defensive-minded, somewhat sluggish Game 7, Garnett was the best player on the court by a wide margin, scoring 32 points on 23 shots, including 14 in the fourth quarter. He also grabbed 21 rebounds and four steals and managed five blocks and only two turnovers in 46 minutes.
Peja Stojakovic, who finished tied for second in the league in points per game with Garnett, scored just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting. Only Doug Christie managed to score more than 20 points in the game for the Kings, and no player on either team other than Garnett pulled down more than eight rebounds as KG dominated the glass from opening tap to final buzzer.
In fact, only four other Wolves players even scored for the Wolves, with four players that saw the floor remaining scoreless.
Here are the Garnett-centric highlights:
The Wolves advanced to the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Minnesota split the first two games at home before dropping both games in L.A. They won Game 5 at home before losing on the road in Game 6 and dropping the series.
Sam Cassell was injured early in the series and only appeared in four of the six games, including one that saw him come off the bench and have limited effectiveness.
As for Garnett, he averaged 23.7 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in the conference finals, but the banged-up Wolves simply lacked the firepower necessary to keep up with O'Neal, Bryant, and the cadre of veteran stars that the Lakers cycled onto the floor.
But this, the No. 1 moment in Kevin Garnett's Minnesota Timberwolves career, is a happy place. And a fond memory to end on. So enjoy your trip down memory lane, and here's hoping that a KG jersey retirement ceremony isn't all too far in our future...