The Minnesota Timberwolves were represented exactly once in ESPN’s ranking of the top 74 players in NBA history. But was Kevin Garnett ranked appropriately?
Only one Hall-of-Famer has ever worn a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey. That isn’t debatable. But where does said Hall-of-Famer rank on a list of the best players all-time players?
When ESPN began rolling out their list of the top 74 players throughout NBA history, it was obvious that Kevin Garnett would be the only player on the list. (Yes, George Mikan made it, slotting in at No. 34, but despite the statue in the Target Center lobby, he goes down as a member of Lakers lore…)
Kevin Garnett has casually been mentioned as a top-25, or in some cases, a top-20 player in league history. The latter has always seemed more accurate, although rankings such as Bill Simmons’ Pantheon from The Book of Basketball (2010) slotted him in at No. 22 all-time.
The latest ESPN list has Garnett listed exactly at No 20, one slot ahead of Scottie Pippen and a spot behind his contemporary, Dirk Nowitzki.
Other notable players in the same neighborhood as The Big Ticket include big men Karl Malone (No. 17) and Moses Malone (No. 18), plus Charles Barkley (No. 23) and David Robinson (No. 24).
The article cites KG’s longevity — second all-time in seasons played with 21 — as well as his all-time ranking in the top 20 in career blocks and steals and top 10 in rebounding as credentials for the list. Also mentioned: Garnett’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards, plus a single title in Boston.
At the same time, his lack of playoff success outside of his short run with the Celtics is why he was held from ranking any higher. For instance, if Nowitzki doesn’t drag that 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks team to a championship, there’s no chance he’s ranked ahead of Garnett.
That said, it would be challenging to rank him much higher than some of the dominant old-timers, such as Jerry West at No. 16 or Julius Erving at No. 15.
The range around No. 20 seems about right for Garnett, although an argument could certainly be made to slot him in just a bit higher. What say you?